He's Just Not That Into You

The appropriate response is suicide
★
☆☆☆☆☆
Released: 
2009
Director: 
Ken Kwapis
Starring: 
Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Long, etc.
The Setup: 
Ensemble piece about vapid yuppies navigating the perilous straits of romance!
Discussion: 

I watched this on the plane back from Berlin, and actually maintained the slightest degree of interest in seeing it at theaters. Then I lost the first 2/3rds of the review when my hard drive died, taking with it a nice, juicy selection of already-written reviews, but you know what? I am going to do my best to recover it from memory BECAUSE I HATE THIS MOVIE SO MUCH. And I want to share that hate with you.

We open with giant bubble of perkiness Gennifer Goodwin as Gigi as a child, with her older self giving a voice-over. She is a young girl on a playground, and a boy comes over to her and shoves her to the ground. She runs crying to her mother, and her mother says the boy did it because he likes her. Gigi then speculates that this is what screws with so many women’s heads and messes with them later in life, because they come to associate bad behavior by men with affection. We then join Gigi as an adult at the end of a date with Conor, this totally bland yuppie. He says he’ll give her a call and she gets excited when she sees him taking his cell phone out, but he calls Scarlett Johansson as Anna. She tells him she doesn’t want to get together just then, and gets ridiculously excited over this cooler she won [it’s depressing to see Scarlett Johansson have to act so stupid], and flirts with the guy behind her in line, Ben. He’s a music producer and she’s an aspiring singer, but he tells her he can’t hear from her, because he’s married… to Jennifer Connelly as Janine, who works in the same office as Gigi and Jennifer Aniston as Betsy, at some magazine [this is the Cosmopolitan magazine version of life, in which everyone works at a magazine or is a yoga instructor or a music producer]. Betsy has been living with Ben Affleck as Neil for seven years, but he doesn’t want to get married because he doesn’t believe in marriage. Which, in this movie, is less preferable to being a Satanist, say, or a leper. Oh, and by the way, all of this is supposedly happening in Baltimore. Have you ever BEEN to Baltimore?

So Gigi starts obsessing over Conor calling, although we have no evidence that they had any particular chemistry or connection. She waits for him to call, staring at her phone at work! In the shower! At her yoga class! Janine advises her on when to call and for how long. Soon she’s planning on just “stopping by” a place he said he sometimes frequents in order to engineer a run-in with him. The majority of the first half-hour here is made up of Gigi growing more obsessive about whether Conor, who you will recall she met once, will call, with her entire sense of self-worth apparently hanging in the balance. It gets to the point where she really does seem to be the badly-damaged shell of what once was a human being. She does go to the restaurant he said he frequents, where she ends up meeting his friend, Alex, played by Justin Long, who apparently runs the place. He came out to help at the bar, as they were super busy, but apparently has time to just sit around and talk to Gigi all night. He tells her flat-out that Conor will never call, because—can you guess?—He’s Just Not That Into Her. Alex will be the one to deliver the major bullet points of the self-help book this is adapted from for the remainder of the movie. He also tells her that too many women hear what amounts to urban legends about women who didn’t give up on a guy, and finally he relented and they got married. He says too many women think that they’ll be “the exception” when in fact they are “the rule.” Gigi seems over Conor the next day at work—where apparently their jobs consist of sitting around and obsessing over relationships.

SPOILERS > > > Meanwhile, Ben has decided that there’s no harm in flirting with Anna, and calls her. This involves him smoking cigarettes on the sly, which he tries, through several scenes and numerous lies, to keep from his wife, Janine. The issue slowly starts to gnaw at her sanity, as she knows something is wrong, but Ben won’t admit it. There is a bizarre scene in which she accuses Luis Guzman’s contractors of smoking while they work on renovating their house. Once it’s revealed that Ben actually is smoking, she says “What part of ‘my father died of lung cancer’ is so hard for you to understand?” as though her personal trauma gives her license to completely control his life. Eventually he comes clean that he had an affair, expecting her to simply dump him, then surprised that she wants to talk about it and work it out. Janine blames herself. It must be said that this is the only thread of the movie that feel in any way genuine, as Jennifer Connelly is able to bring some real, grounded emotion to it.

Meanwhile Betsy grows more and more upset that Neil won’t marry her, despite his repeated assurances that he loves her, and doesn’t believe in marriage on ideological grounds. Idi-a-whatdicalogical grounds? Janine says. When Alex gives Gigi the advice that if a guy hasn’t married you after two years, he isn’t going to marry you, Betsy goes home and tells Neil that “she needs him to not be nice to her if he isn’t going to marry her.” This is the sort of “kooky” statement that some women apparently think is adorable [this movie made me really glad not to be straight]. Anyway, despite the fact that their relationship is going swimmingly, Betsy “Can’t do this” and breaks up with Neil for not marrying her. In here we briefly see Drew Barrymore in a tiny part that has no relation to anything. Nevertheless, Drew produced the film, so special scorn must be heaped on her.

So some of the corollary advice to “if a man hasn’t married you… he’s not going to marry you” that Alex gives Gigi is that “If a guy wants to see you, believe me, he will see you.” This casts the whole situation as that all women are desperate for men to call, and are delighted to hear from and date any man, while men are completely in control of the situation, and can choose to call the woman back or not, as they like. If they want to see a woman, the woman WILL see them. I’m sure several men out there would be quite surprised to find out that this is the case. Anyway, Gigi shows that she has actually not grown beyond her desperate yearning for a boyfriend above all else, only altered the context of her delusions, as she starts to believe that Alex is secretly in love with her, and has been telling her this in code all along. She accepts his invitation to a party as the fruition of their secret passion, and finally makes an ill-advised move on him.

He tells her that no, he is actually not secretly in love with her, causing her to deliver a withering character assessment about how he just uses people and never really connects to anyone, concluding “You have not won. You’re alone, Alex.” We’ll leave until later discussion of WHAT Gigi could possibly mean by classifying the entire issue into “winning” and “losing,” with finding companionship [regardless of with who?] definitively posed as “winning.”

Okay, time to arbitrarily stop the movie and wrap everything up! Time’s up, folks! Betsy and Neil get back together! And guess what? He proposes in a cute, TV-movie way, and they get married! Mary [that’s Drew] and Conor get together! Anna has a singing gig [i.e. she hasn’t found a relationship, but she’s on her way to pursuing her dream]! Janine and Ben, surprise, break up, and she moves out! And Gigi’s harsh character assessment was exactly what Alex needed to realize that goll-darn it, she’s right! And in fact, she is the very woman he must spend the rest of his life with! They’ve WON.
< < < SPOILERS END

The primary emotion this movie evokes is sadness for people who view relationships this way, and the people who will watch this movie and feel that they must adopt to these standards in order to find a relationship, and hence to “win.” Gigi is a character clearly in need of several years of reparative therapy for her wildly distorted view of her own value and human relationships, yet the movie tries to coast on a “We’re all like this, deep inside!” vibe. The pathetic obsession she develops over whether Conor will call her is embarrassing and sad, not adorable. Her lack of insight developed through the film—she simply switches fantasy-based obsession with Conor for fantasy-based obsession with Alex—is also disheartening. Yet the film has no criticism of her, it holds her up as a model for the winning strategy of being sincere and open to people, which apparently trumps all other characteristics—like, say, wisdom or intelligence. By the time she indicates that for her, being partnered is “winning” and being alone “losing,” one pities her distorted view of relationships, but the point of the view of the movie is that this is pretty much the way things are.

Betsy is blind to the attributes of her relationship, and only the public validation of a wedding can make it real to her. At which point she can begin looking forward to the next milestone, having a baby [as Janine wishes to do], with an option to also achieve wonderful completions of self such as renovating one’s fabulous loft! Really, you should receive two free issues of Cosmopolitan with your ticket purchase, which will convert to a full subscription unless you cancel.

The movie really is disconcerting and uncomfortable in the way that it suggests that all women are wholly mentally preoccupied with guys, whether a guy will call, whether they’ll have a relationship [they’ll WIN!], and then get married, then renovate the loft, then have a baby! After that, I suppose life ends? Or I think perhaps you flip into being the bitter wife whose husband likes younger women but its okay because you have the credit card to acquire shoes and redo the house again? While watching the movie I kept wondering at the mindset—and set-up for disappointment—that people who share this film’s worldview must have. I mean, WHAT is going to happen after you’ve finally scored that relationship? After you’ve “won?” And most of all, after one has married, that ultimate milestone and validation of all that is you! Most films end with marriage and don’t bother to show what comes after, but this one really egregiously sets that up as the ultimate prize, to the point where one begins to worry about the people that might be taken in by this viewpoint. We all know that one person who just keeps talking about having a relationship, and their new strategy for getting a relationship, and how their main focus is on finding a relationship, and after a while you want to say “Um, what do you think is going to HAPPEN when you find this mythical relationship? You’re going to be delivered into some blissful state of endless nirvana and never have any other concerns or problems again?” Because like those people, this movie just kind of makes you WORRY for those people that have this distorted viewpoint, and wish that somehow they could just undergo a complete, ground-up change of mind.

Let’s again underscore this film’s view of women as vacuous bundles of emotional need who seem unable or unwilling to process anything that doesn’t have to do with DATING! And superficial symbols of personal validation such as someone thinking one is cute or calling one back. The irony is that this is positioning itself so heavily as a “chick flick,” and to be supportive of women, when in fact it is painting them as neurotic and shallow strivers with significantly warped self-images, lacking any secure sense of self [except that which they think they should SEEM to have in order to be more DATABLE!] and desperate for the validation of any fleeting attention from even the most unsuitable of men. It’s just sad, more than anything! Talk about the five-hankie weeper of the year. OH, and by the way, this is apparently supposed to be a “comedy.”

Really, I don’t understand why feminists weren’t burning theaters down when this was out.

The ultimate betrayal this movie is guilty of is devoting two hours to trying to strip women of their delusions about romance and get them to accept that the “fairy tale” ending they yearn for is not a reality—then end is such a way that nearly all the characters achieve that magical, surprise fairy tale ending! And like in the fairy tale, it leaves the women in the audience, the ones in supposedly supports, with the old “they lived happily ever after” and doesn’t bother to include what might happen as these people continue to live their lives. But whatever, they’ve “WON!”

This is one of those things where one feels that the director, Ken Kwapis, and the screenwriters, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, really need to be exiled to a desert island, where they can inflict no more damage on society. You will need chemical decontamination after this film and women, please do not let your daughters watch this damaging film.

Should you watch it: 

There really are no circumstances under which that is advisable—except maybe in a college women’s studies class.