Movie Review: He's Just Not That Into You

The chick flick is more than a genre; it is a breed of film. The comedy "He's Just Not That Into You," based loosely on the 2004 book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, is the latest to emerge from this family of Jennifers, Jessicas and Bens—a pool of actors whose role as lover or sibling to each other depends on the movie alone. Contrasting with the book's simplicity, the film spins an elaborate web of sex, lies and answering-machine tape, flamboyantly demonstrating the very clichés it hopes to obliterate. Given, not every character ends up with a fairy-tale ending—some are even (gasp!) single at the end—but it takes the overwhelming majority of two hours to admit that the men are, in fact, into them.

We begin with the disembodied voice of Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), musing about the dating stories women spoon-feed to each other. Here's a hint: they're delusional lies. Yet what sounds like an attempt at breaking out of Disney territory is obliterated when we get to know our characters a little better. Gigi—cute in a grind-your-teeth sort of way—can't figure out why her total lack of spine has failed to make her a candidate for love. Enter Alex (Justin Long), who takes it upon himself to explain that women build up hopes on "exceptions to the rule"—the rare cases when a man's excuse for failure to communicate ("I lost your phone number right before I spontaneously moved to Africa to de-worm orphans...") are actually true. Between bouts of biting her perfectly manicured nails over the injustices of this statement, Gigi actually realizes the profound stupidity of Alex's machismo. Naturally, he then becomes the pathetic one, and she the authoritative love-Yoda.

Alas, where Alex's generalizations always held a grain of truth, Gigi's messages to the audience are sickeningly optimistic. And after he coos, "you're my exception" into her oh-so-empowered ear, how could she have resisted ending the film with a stinker like "you never, ever gave up hope?" That's right, you—single woman in the audience—you're the exception. It's a flaming contradiction to the film's original statement of intent. Not surprisingly, the rest of the ensemble cast (including Jennifer Connolly, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Aniston) follows suit. The "wronged" woman picks up the pieces of her life, the man who doesn't believe in marriage pops the question and the jackass whose wife causes him to "miss out" on other women (but doesn't prevent him from watching Scarlett Johansson emerge naked from a swimming pool, apparently) ends up alone.

So we didn't learn anything. Then again, education is not the movie's goal. Instead, it adheres quite nicely to the laws established by its chick flick ancestors...and is most easily swallowed when accepted for what it is: complete escapism. Even Gigi's empowerment in "cutting the drama out of her life" is dubious, because we all know it can never truly be eliminated. Surely these movies have trained us to believe in the drama's inevitable transfer to the next sap, who will lick it up in a series of similar dating blunders and keep the cycle forever moving. This twisted circle is mutually dependent on the continuity of the chick flick breed itself—a phenomenon that will outlast any apocalypse, save perhaps the spontaneous combustion of Hugh Grant. Both the fodder and the film are exaggerated, a little twisted and not likely to burn out any time soon.

So really, this movie commits no crime except dangerous adherence to the clichés it pretends to discourage. Besides polarized gender roles (why is it that the women drop whatever they are doing, which is usually yoga or housecleaning, to answer their phone?), it is simply a two-hour battle of the sexes. After a cutesy monologue regarding the impossibility of technology, Drew Barrymore says it herself: "it's exhausting." I couldn't agree more, Drew. This being said, there is only so much anxiety that can be drawn from a film so textbook in its honey-glazed formula—like all good romantic comedies, it leaves us with the immortal music of The Cure. In case we were still confused about what kind of movie it is. Originality be damned, this flick is fiercely loyal to its breed. And though we appreciate it ...well...we're just not that into it.