There are a lot of smiles on the poster for He’s Just Not That Into You. I count seven grins plus a smirk, all for a movie about … rejection? Why not make an airy romantic comedy called You’ve Got Melanoma or When Harry Met Misery?
A catchphrase can go surprisingly far in American life. This one went too far a couple of years ago, and it just kept going. But where’s the beef? The line was fine to sustain an episode of Sex and the City, questionable when it gave rise to a terrible book of the same name (plus a sequel), and very strange indeed when it led to a brief talk-show-hosting gig for its author Greg Behrendt (who wrote the book with Liz Tuccillo). It is now insufferable as a full-length movie that has no sense of humor, no romantic chemistry in any of its pairings, and almost no characters — except for nice-looking bland people who either spout variations of the catchphrase or are recipients of it. We stand fortunate that a catchphrase cannot, at least not yet, run for president. (Or maybe one already has, and won? I’d prefer not to think about that.)
Spoiler alert: The phrase “He’s Just Not That Into You” is not spoken in the movie, so if you were prepared to stand on your seats and cheer upon its utterance you will be disappointed. What does appear is a wretchedly interchangeable group of hip media types (in Baltimore), each of whom is either lusting after someone who isn’t interested or coolly rejecting someone. Everyone talks about nothing but relationships, everyone’s apartment seems to have been decorated by the same exposed-brick urban-chic design fairy, and everyone is as cloth-eared about dating rituals as Martians, or maybe teenagers, though half the cast are old enough to have teenage children themselves. Who doesn’t know that if you have a date with someone who doesn’t maintain contact, you shouldn’t call him or her repeatedly and stalk their favorite lairs?
Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin of Big Love) wants to hear from a cute guy, Conor (Kevin Connolly of Entourage), with whom she had one date. Unbeknownst to her, Conor is hung up on Anna (Scarlett Johansson). While Gigi is trying to find Conor, she meets his roommate (Justin Long — Mac Guy from the commercials), who delivers to her, and the audience (lucky us), dozens of wit-free variations of the title. Apparently, if a guy doesn’t call, it’s because he doesn’t want to.
Still, Gigi makes excuses about Conor’s failure to call in many different scenes, including several at work (what she does for a living isn’t clear, but it’s something appropriately hip and groovy), where she unloads on two coworkers (Jennifer Aniston and Jennifer Connelly). Aniston has been living with a guy (Ben Affleck) for seven years because he doesn’t ever want to get married; Connelly is happily married to a music-biz pro (Bradley Cooper) who is friends with the Affleck character and strikes up a flirtation with the saucy Johansson at a grocery store. Somewhere in the background, practically in storage, is Drew Barrymore, who sells ads at a gay newspaper and is alarmed that guys she chats with online never seem to want to call her.
The movie runs a bit like an old union factory that is determined to get lots of people jobs but not require anybody to work too hard, least of all the screenwriters who have failed to give anybody anything interesting to say or any personality shadings. Gigi, for instance, is needy to the point of brain damage — her actions are equal to that famously cringe-making series of calls Jon Favreau made to a girl’s answering machine in Swingers, only Gigi’s antics last for an entire movie. And when the writers need sparks to fly, they have the actors say to each other, “You’re really hot” (Cooper to Johansson). Johansson responds by stripping naked.
If there is a bright side to this movie, it’s that Cary Grant did not live long enough to see it.
He’s Just Not That Into You
Directed by Ken Kwapis
Starring: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson
1 star/ 4
125 minutes/Rated PG-13