According to Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo's dinky 2004 relationship-advice book "He's Just Not That Into You," if a guy you're interested in won't call you, won't sleep with you, won't marry you in spite of years of dating or is already married to someone else, you should accept that he isn't really emotionally invested in you. It's time to move on.
The film adaptation, a sprawling, many-threaded series of stories that play out each of these dynamics in turn, has other advice: Fight with him. Cry. Chase him and humiliate yourself. Complain to some girlfriends. Consult one of the helpful, perky, sexless gay men who seem to be everywhere. And then back off for a while. Chances are excellent that he'll come to his senses and become Just That Into You. After all, he's in a romantic comedy, right?
Until a rash of ridiculous happy endings takes all the bite out of the premise, "He's Just Not That Into You" has some fun with its bubble gum tone. Like the book and the "Sex and the City" episode that inspired it, it sets out to soften its stinging message with a playful, lively approach. A wry opening montage pokes fun at the terrible relationship advice women give each other in the name of being supportive. In a series of brief interludes, supporting players talk directly to the camera about relationship mistakes. Director Ken Kwapis ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") assembles the whole thing like a scrapbook full of bright, happy colors.
But before long, melodrama asserts itself. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin from "Big Love") is hoping that big things will come from a blind date with Conor ( Kevin Connolly), but he hasn't called. He's too busy being hung up on his friend Anna ( Scarlett Johansson), who's content to use and abuse him. Anna has just met and become obsessed with Ben (Bradley Cooper), a faithful-but-tempted man in a rocky marriage with Janine ( Jennifer Connelly).
And to further complicate things, Anna's friend Mary ( Drew Barrymore) is failing to find love through personal ads and phone messages. Meanwhile, Janine and Gigi work with Beth ( Jennifer Aniston), who has been in a relationship with Neil ( Ben Affleck) for seven years, and is infuriated over his failure to pop the question.
Much as with "Closer," or other everything-is-connected movies such as "Short Cuts" and "Crash," many of these individuals are linked in other ways, and their interactions further shape their relationship problems. In particular, Conor's friend Alex (Justin Long) becomes the voice of the book, patiently explaining to the embarrassingly desperate Gigi that she needs to stop chasing men who don't care about her and start paying attention to the obvious signs.
Problem is, nothing is obvious to the movie's bland, shrill women except that they aren't getting exactly what they want. Most of the guys—Affleck in particular—seem patient, good-natured and a little baffled by comparison. They just have interests beyond the immediate needs of their relationships, unlike their female analogues. Among the men, only Connolly is stuck pining after a love interest who isn't into him, and only he opens himself up to the kind of awkward, needy behavior common to the female cast. Some of the players comport themselves better than others—Barrymore is sweetly wistful in her minor role, while Johansson, as a confident go-getter who sets out to steal her crush object rather than moon over him, is sexier than the whole cast put together.
But most of them come across as limp and whiny, or, in Goodwin's case, tacky and awful. And as the film ditches all pretense at handing out good advice—it barrels toward a conclusion where their selfish, immature or just plain silly choices are mostly rewarded.
Click here to see the Chicago Tribune's full movie report.
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and brief strong language).
Running time: 2:09.
Opening: Feb. 6.
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin (Gigi); Jennifer Aniston (Beth); Jennifer Connelly (Janine); Scarlett Johansson (Anna).
Directed by: Ken Kwapis; written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein; edited by Cara Silverman; photographed by John Bailey; music by Cliff Eidelman; production design by Gae S. Buckley; produced by Nancy Juvonen. A New Line Cinema release.
'He's Just Not That Into You' ★1/2