Thursday, February 12, 2009

FILM REVIEW: He's Just Not That Into You

Romantic comedies seem completely implausible and fairytale-like, but I finally discovered why after watching this genuinely realistic exploration of the male-female dynamic. The genre advocates that the lead's chance-meeting with the man of her dreams happens to everyone. Every girl who sighs at the meet-cute and the grand gestures is mentally logging that moment for when she feels depressed and disheartened by her romantic failures. In this film, we're initially told that those girls in the movies, and even the ones we've heard of in passing, are the "exception to the rule." And the truth is women subconsciously hope and pray that some day they'll be the exception.

For those of you who read the book and were completely repulsed, like my friend Emi, you'll be happy to know that the film isn't about perpetuating Greg Behrendt's belief. Sure, it uses his mottos and makes solid points and examples that were derived from the book's philosophy, but like I pointed out earlier, it makes beautifully clear that sometimes there are exceptions to his rules. So if you hated the book, revel in Greg being proven wrong.

Emi also hated it because it showed women as these marriage-hungry basket-cases. But you haters and she will be happy to know that there are steady in-betweens represented by Drew Barrymore's Mary and Scarlett Johansson's Anna. I mean, they want love, but not so they can put a ring on their finger. And even the guys are not all ring-dodging tail-chasers. Kevin Connolly plays a solid commitment seeker, and a few of the other male characters adopt his way of life eventually. All in all, it's a well-rounded film, whose chapters, unlike The Jane Austen Book Club, are smooth and poignant, successful in covering nearly everyone's interests and doing a great job of providing a glimpse of modern love, which is apparently so difficult to master in this technologically-laden era that I wouldn't be surprised if people start resorting to arranged marriages again. (Oh wait! We already have online dating. Too late.)

Since there was such a huge cast I want to do each of them justice by noting something about their individual performances:

Ginnifer Goodwin as Gigi: She's a leading lady in the making. She's the brunette Reese Witherspoon--a breath of girl-next-door fresh air. As a romantic lead, she's such an incredibly lovable fuck-up. Gigi is the quintessential hopeless romantic, who not only wants to fall in love, but will dissect and examine every single interaction in order to find it. She's an eternal optimist and Cupid's one-woman cheer leading squad--you can't help but love her. A+

Kevin Connolly as Connor: I think maybe Kev needs to put a speech pathologist on retainer. I just...I just don't fully buy this old-school New York-accent-having midget as an enterprising real estate agent. Or maybe it's not that his character wasn't believable. Maybe it's that he's so good at playing E on "Entourage" that I can't fully forget him. Connor was actually pretty funny though as the unfortunate representation of the guy who's strung along by a girl like Scarlett's Anna until she finds someone better. He's her platonic pick-me-up, who gives her massages and a shoulder to cry on. I am ashamed to admit that I know a lot of guys like that and I wouldn't touch them with a ten-foot pole. Please, grow a backbone. B+

Justin Long as Alex: You know every time I watch a movie with Justin, I fall for him all over again. He has impeccable comic timing, and this time he wasn't even playing a geek or a slacker. In fact, he technically wasn't even playing the good guy, and I still loved him. Alex was the book's mouthpiece. He laid down the rules and delivered them without any sugar-coating. He acted as Gigi's guide through the mine fields of love. What he was saying seemed like common sense, but it was clear that Gigi barely had any. He was as good for her as she was for him--it was a great give and take. A+

Scarlett Johansson as Anna: I always find that when someone sticks to one genre or avoids one in particular, it shows that they aren't very good at their craft. But I understand that if they don't look the part--Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Day-Lewis could never do a rom-com justice--they shouldn't do the role. In Scarlett's case, however, it would seem the only reason she got the role is because she looks like the girl every man wants. Unfortunately, playing coy and cute without comic relief, which she was really good at in Woody Allen's Scoop, isn't her strong suit. It seemed forced and unnatural. Her character was this free-spirited yoga instructor slash aspiring singer, who really thought an adulterer could be a stand-up guy. Idiot. B

Jennifer Connelly as Janine: Is it just me or did her charisma peak in the early 90s? There's just no spark in her eyes anymore. She's attractive, but...bored. Not boring. Bored. Her character represented the girl who got married too quickly, because it just seemed logical after college. She wanted the house, the kids, and the pristine lifestyle, providing the delusional female perspective that perpetuated Gigi's obsession. When drama struck her marriage, she handled it in a way that surprisingly a lot of women do. They don't run from their marriages. They try to work it out. It may not seem like the picture of a strong woman, but resisting the urge to give up is actually a lot harder than it seems. Still, the idea that infidelity is a one-night event is just more of that delusional thinking. C+

Bradley Cooper as Dickhead Ben: I don't know--something about this guy just screams "Douche!" and it has nothing to do with his role in this film. However, it probably helped him play the role perfectly. He seamlessly went from your average guy who fell out of love with his wife and in love with a beautiful stranger to a complete and total user. I like that every male character had different levels and it wasn't all cookie-cutter Prince Charmings. B+ (for his effortless douchery)

Ben Affleck as Neil: It's unusual for him to take such a small role, but playing the lovable everyman is a reflex for the natural born schlub. He hits every comedic mark without breaking a sweat and delivers romantic gestures with ease. His character represented the committed marriage-phobe. The guy who gives a billion political, theological, economic, and psychological excuses for why he won't marry you--the best being that it wouldn't change your dynamic one bit. I'm a firm believer that marriage is pointless, since it isn't an absolute guarantee that your spouse won't cheat or get boring, but I'll probably go through with it if only for post-death legal purposes and the tax benefits. It's good though that they explored the reluctant pseudo-hubbie. A-

Jennifer Anniston as Beth: Oh Jen. Jen's often been accused of being a one-note actress, rarely emotive and almost as lifeless as Connelly. There are several films where her version of mulling over something involves staring off-camera and delivering her punchline. They're funny, but maybe the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look shouldn't be used in close-ups--super distracting. Beth was the last unmarried sister in her family, even though she's been with her boyfriend Neil for over seven years. She represents the desperate few who may have found Prince Charming, but won't rest until she has the entire fairytale. B

Drew Barrymore as Mary: As executive producer, Drew must've given herself the smallest part on purpose. Functioning in the background, consistently surrounded by gay men and acting as bff to Anna, she worked well as a ball of nerves. Her character represented the new generation of daters, who spend more time "social networking" through online or technological mediums than they do face-to-face. She explored the peculiarity of how one gets to know a future lover/husband through his profile and short, meaningless IMs rather than conversation. But even when Drew hovers in the background, she still shines through. A

Here are my favorite lines and moments (that I can remember):

Gigi wrote down what she was going to say on the answer machine of a guy she met the night before, but couldn't read her own handwriting half-way through. She was trying to say that it's perfectly normal for a girl to ask a guy out, but somehow ended up with a rant about how women should be treated equal to men and how "Women have penises now." Um Gigi, those aren't women.

• Since Alex took pity on her when she clumsily attempted to lie her way out of an embarrassing situation where she was trying to accidentally run into his friend Connor at a bar, she instinctively interpreted that as flirtation and he reacted by saying, "Don't start doodling my name on your binder."

• You might've seen in the commercials when Anna is encouraged to listen to her voice mail by her gay co-workers and discovers a serenade from the guy she's flirting with. Well, they cut out the part where her Spanish friend Nathan (Wilson Cruz from "My So-Called Life") says, "I just got hard." Hilarious!

• When some uber dork named Dan (John Ross Bowie from "Big Bang Theory") tries to flirt with Beth at her sister's wedding, he reveals that he's a Wiccan and his real name is Brother Phoenix East Horse. I would've got up at the mere mention of Wicca--I'm not interested in anyone's religious denomination. My devil? Your devil? Who cares?

• When Janine flips out over her crumbling marriage and throws a vintage mirror to the floor, she sobs silently, walks off-camera around the corner and returns with a broom and dustpan, because even when she's distraught, everything still has to appear perfect.

I just checked IMDb and it's no wonder I loved the film, Marc Silverstein and Abby Kohn wrote it and they're the geniuses behind Never Been Kissed, which is one of my all-time favorite Barrymore films (the other being Ever After). In the end, after two hours, I found myself saying, "Come on! More!!"

No comments:

Post a Comment