He’s Just Not That Into You

Sex and the City of Baltimore

         
 

06 February 2009| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

By casting nearly a dozen appealing actors He’s Just Not That Into You is striving to become the ultimate relationship movie. Among the list of names: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson and Justin Long. I liked all of these actors going in, and for the most part, I liked them all even more after I walked out of this incisive comedy of women choosing the wrong mates. The screenplay at worst makes the kind of mistakes an awkward guy on a first date makes. The screenplay at best feels like a constant commentary on contemporary bad mating selection.

Such as why would someone like Beth (Aniston) remain in a relationship with Neil (Affleck) for seven years when he has no intention of marrying her? Janine (Jen Connelly) remains in a strained marriage with a closed book named Ben (Cooper), whom contemplates an affair with bombshell Anna (Johansson), with Conor (Kev Connolly) as the sincere hard-working professional also in love with Anna. Gigi (Goodwin) goes out on dates with men who don’t call her a week later but still obsesses about them beyond all reason. The astute dating expert in the movie is Alex (Long), a manager/bartender who begins mentoring Gigi in translating the signs and moving on. Throw in a few more interlocking stories and you got an ensemble movie.

The movie is only sometimes competently directed by Ken Kwapis (the agreeably mild “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” and the atrocious “License to Wed” are among his credits), and despite his cookie cutter sitcom staging, the actors do everything to transform and elevate the material. Kwapis is such a negligent director that he barely establishes the city of Baltimore where his movie is set, forgetting such things as ambience and environment as flavorful components to the story. In one scene with Johannson and Cooper, the director places them in the foreground of an anonymous brick wall, posting his actors against an abundance of empty space. This is not good visual composition.

Yet I counted three great scenes in the movie, which has more to do with the actors and screenwriters Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein’s contribution than with anyone else.  When I say great scenes, I mean, highly memorable scenes that etched their way into my personal study and reflection days after I saw the movie.

All three of these qualifying great scenes had to do with the Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Connelly and Scarlett Johansson triangle.  The ever-fetching Johansson makes a light night dip in the pool sound more erotically tempting that it would sound out of someone else’s mouth.  Following is a blatant confession as an indirect cry to end a relationship that unwittingly deepens and intensifies that same relationship. And ultimately, an unwanted visit at work becomes a hair-raising juggling act.

The actors pull off all their scenes engagingly with the right note of desperation when called for without straining for effect. I could have done without Kris Kristofferson’s heart attack. What at all does that have to do with the subject of the film? Yet nearly everything else works and the actors make us care, and we in turn care to laugh at their foibles. The movie is based on the nonfiction bestseller by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, former writers on the “Sex and the City” HBO series.

129 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

ROMANTIC COMEDY / CHICK FLICK / WEEKEND WITH WINE MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Mystic Pizza” (1988); “Playing by Heart” (1998); “Love Actually” (2003); “Sex and the City: The Movie” (2008).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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