Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Long, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck
Greg Behrendt, Liz Tuccillo
In the real world, Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) would be knockin' on the door of Mr. Goodbar.
In the world of "He's Just Not That Into You," Gigi is destined for happiness.
You know it the minute you see her.
Yes, she's hauntingly stalkerish. Yes, she's sorta pathetic. Yes, she says all the wrong things and makes all the wrong moves.
But, you know it. By movie's end, Gigi will be happy.
Before you start to think I'm making fun of "He's Just Not That Into You," I should tell you that, much to my surprise, I rather enjoyed this light, romantic comedy from co-writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo.
However, it's not Behrendt and Tuccillo who can take credit for the surprising success of "He's Just Not That Into You." In fact, the film is rather solid proof that a decent cast can elevate even the most cliche' ridden, contrived script.
"He's Just Not That Into You" has quite the cast.
There's the previously mentioned Goodwin, whose Gigi is the heart and soul of the film. Goodwin's Gigi spends her nights almost relentlessly looking for Mr. Right, only to be completely baffled when they hardly ever call her back or simply date her to take advantage of her good-hearted nature.
After yet another bad dating experience, Gigi stumbles upon a brutally honest, advice giving bartender named Alex (Goodwin's real life platonic pal, Justin Long). Alex takes Gigi under his wing and teaches her the rules about dating.
There are no exceptions, ya know?
Can you see where this storyline is going?
Yep, you can.
Of course, it doesn't stop with Gigi.
There's Beth (Jennifer Aniston), a thirtysomething professional in a seven-year relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck). The two are successful, attractive and happy.
Actually, Beth WANTS marriage and Neil doesn't. When Beth's younger sister gets engaged, the seven-year-itch hits full force.
Again, do you know where this is going?
Then, there's Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and Ben (Bradley Cooper). They're married happily, right? Well, everything seems happy until Ben's innocent flirtation with Anna (Scarlett Johansson) turns not so innocent.
Do I really have to keep repeating myself?
The storylines are all wrapped together by the 21st century techno-dating dilemmas of Mary (Drew Barrymore), a young woman who laments that the techno world isn't an ideal dating method for her because her voice and her body don't match.
You do realize she'll end up happy, right?
Actually, to the credit of Behrendt and Tuccillo, how these characters end up happy does vary...some will discover their Mr. Right while others will discover an identity outside of their relationship.
But, I assure you they will end up happy.
What makes "He's Just Not That Into You" rise above mediocrity is a cast that manages to infuse the entire affair with moments of sheer, sparkly humanity and hilarious wonder.
Goodwin steals the film as Gigi, a young woman so heartachingly screwed up that it's impossible to not fall madly in love with her. Goodwin's performance reminds me of Isla Fisher's in "Wedding Crashers," a sweet, funny and emotional performance that turned Fisher into a household name and sought after actress.
While it's a tad difficult to figure out why such a pedigreed cast agreed to such an obviously stereotypical film, they all seem to be enjoying themselves here.
This very easily could have been a paycheck film for Oscar winners Connelly and Affleck, while it could have been a throwaway film for Aniston and Johansson. To their absolute credit, the entire ensemble cast gives it their all, though one could argue Barrymore's Mary feels a bit slight and underdeveloped.
Aniston, who could do this part in her sleep, doesn't. Instead, she makes us truly feel her double dilemma of being in a relationship where she's truly loved yet not truly getting everything she needs.
Sounds like a Rolling Stones song, eh?
Affleck, as well, is a nice match for Aniston and wisely avoids playing Neil as right or wrong. These two adults are simply two very human beings who, on one very core issue, simply disagree.
Is it possible to reconcile?
Directed by Ken Kwapis ("Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants"), "He's Just Not That Into You" has the look and feel of a "Sex and the City" episode, not so surprising given its writers and its being loosely based upon one of the series' most popular episodes. This occasionally works against the film, most notably in the way Kwapis pieces together the film in "chapters" with transition scenes that occasionally fall flat.
Like he did with "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants," Kwapis gives the film the perfect blend of heart, humor and emotional connection. Even Johansson and Cooper's characters, arguably the only character in the film whose actions feel truly questionable, are played largely without judgment and this, in turn, will resonate for those who've ever faced the "choice" in a relationship regarding faithfulness.
While "He's Just Not That Into You" certainly isn't groundbreaking cinema, it's easily early 2009's best option for date night. Elevated by a strong cast, "He's Just Not That Into You" is a film you will most assuredly be into.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic