He's Just Not That Into You
Within the realms of dating, male-female relationships, sex, and marriage there are an infinite number of stories to tell. In "He's Just Not That Into You," inspired by the popular self-help book, about a dozen or so films are jammed together in an attempt to make an ensemble comedy/drama. However, As the movie progressed there was one film that I longed to see thrown into the mix, namely the one playing in the neighboring auditorium: the new "Friday the Thirteenth."
The only acceptable ending was for Jason Voorhees to invade Baltimore and murder the film's empty, pathetic twenty-something/thirty-something men and women. Instead of summarizing the labyrinthine plot I'll just list and describe all of the characters and their connections.
First there's Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin,) a young, single woman who's just had what she seems to think is a great date with Connor (Kevin Connolly,) a real estate agent. Gigi doesn't have very much relationship success and is always obsessing over getting called back and whether or not the guy really likes her. Connor doesn't. He's more interested in Anna (Scarlett Johannson,) who he's dated for awhile. Anna, who teaches yoga and wants to be a singer, isn't having sex with him anymore and is losing interest. She pursues Ben (Bradley Cooper,) a guy she met at the supermarket. The only problem is that Ben is unhappily married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly,) and initially resists her advances as any husband should.
One of Connor's friends is Alex (Justin Long,) a restaurant manager who ends up counseling and befriending Gigi when she drops by his bar in her pursuit of Connor. Also thrown into the mix are Beth (Jennifer Aniston,) who works with Gigi, and Neil (Ben Affleck,) who's friends with Ben. Beth and Neil have been together for seven years and while living as a married couple, have refused to tie the knot, primarily at Neil's insistence.
Let's see, who else am I forgetting? Oh yes, there's also Mary (Drew Barrymore,) who has developed Connor's advertising campaign and longs to actually meet him. Kris Kristofferson also has a nice role as Beth's father Rod. And there is also an assortment of gay male supporting characters who give the conflicted heteros advice and brag about how gay relationships don't have such struggles over whether "he's just not that into you."
I just couldn't buy anything the film did for one simple reason: most of these people really were not attractive. Oh sure they're attractive physically, everyone is in a Hollywood movie but personally, intellectually, and morally I just couldn't understand how they were falling for one another. It was as though they were attracted to one another for no reason other than the screenwriters needed them to be for the movie.
Why does Gigi obsess over Connor? He's not that great of a guy. Why does Ben risk his marriage over Anna, aside from the obvious fact that she's played by Johannson? She's probably the most horrible person in the whole film, deserving of Jason Voorhees' blade more than anyone else for the way she so casually destroys a marriage.
The only characters I could even begin to sympathize with were the long-term couple of Beth and Neil, who struggled with making the leap to marriage. And Long's Alex was somewhat entertaining as well as the screenwriters seemed to use his character as a depository for some of the ideas of the self help book. He played the role of wise bartender dispensing painful truths about men and dating. In spite of this he was a jerk too.
The film's primary redeeming quality aside from the playfulness of its dozen or so interconnected characters and plot threads is that it allows for a reflection on the subjects of dating, relationships and marriage. The film doesn't really make any meaningful contributions itself on those subjects but at least it asks the right questions.
Why do men and women get married? What are the right reasons? How do we know when it's right to get married? How do we deal with the challenge of transitioning from the infatuations and excitements of dating to the calming security of mature, true love? How should we go about finding our soul mate? How do we know when we've found them?
These questions are on my mind as the date of my wedding gets closer and closer. And there was a key aspect of the whole marriage subject that the film seemed to miss. Perhaps part of the reason why I was annoyed by the characters is that they were all so self-focused. They were pursuing relationships and in relationships for them. Almost everything was always about them.
Most of the characters are stuck in a popular description of hell. They're all sitting around a big table with forks and spoons that are six feet long. And they're finding it impossible to feed themselves with such unorthodox silverware. So they begin to starve in their loneliness. In heaven everyone is seated around the same table with the same unwieldy forks. But it's the greatest meal ever because they discover their long spoons are perfect for feeding one another across the table.
You're ready to get married when you're done feeding yourself. And most problems in relationships seem to come when one person isn't feeding the other and is instead attending to their own needs. My fiance April and I tend to primarily have problems when one of us is being selfish (usually me.) It's a continual struggle to try and feed the other person and trust them to feed you instead of just resorting to your old ways of feeding yourself.
You get married when you decide that you're going to start feeding your talents and energies into something other than yourself, when you're ready to actually create something new: a family. That's what the characters in the film don't understand and why they're so unhappy. And because the film doesn't get that it's about as engaging, intellectually challenging, and life-affirming as a slasher flick.