Monday, 23 February 2009

"He’s Just Not That Into You" or "Surprisingly, The Best We Could Do Even With All These Huge Names"

Even with the long list of must-see movies that are currently in the theatres, I, for some reason, suspended the nagging feeling that it would be glorified crap and decided to see He’s Just Not That Into You anyway. And you know what? It is glorified crap – in fact, not even that glorified. More like sad, little, whimpering crap. It isn’t awful. It is just painfully underwhelming.

There are all the expected stereotypes of female behaviour. Ginnifer Goodwin’s character Gigi is naïve, sweet and desperate to be loved by a man. She takes all comers and is so clueless about male behaviour, you have to wonder whether she had previously lived in a bubble on Krypton. Of course, along comes Alex, played by Justin Long, to roll his eyes at her while schooling her on the not-really-that cryptic-or-clever ways of the opposite sex. It takes the wisdom of a cad to teach her what apparently neither she nor any of her smart, educated girlfriends could manage to figure out. Of course, she ends up falling for the cad, or rather, decides she might as well let him come home with her after she has convinced herself that he has fallen for her. We notice that at no point does she stop to ask herself how she feels about any of these men. Them wanting her, or at least them not chasing her off with a stick, is a more than adequate condition for the start of a relationship.

Jennifer Connelly tries to do a little acting with the role she is given as the passive-aggressive neat freak whose frigidity forces her husband to have an affair with – who else – Scarlet Johansson, the fecund goddess to Connelly's dried up old bag. We start to think we might see a hint of performance in Connelly’s interpretation, but she could only do so much with the script and direction she was given. I was a little heartened to notice the only thing that keeps me watching Entourage: the presence of Kevin Connolly. But he turns out to be just E in tighter clothes, just as Jennifer Aniston is a sleepier Rachel, and Drew Barrymore is Neurotic Girl from almost every film she’s been in.

Ben Affleck seemed pleasantly mellow and self-assured in his role as husband of Aniston’s Beth, and was surprisingly the standout performance of the film, such as he could be under the circumstances. The laughs were scarce, coming primarily for me from the token, asexual, fat black ladies on a bench who, of course, dispense wisdom in that ‘listen to big mama’ way that Hollywood directors, poor things, have to resort to for half their black, woman characters, or else I think they’ll burst into flames. Apart from the black stereotypes (Tyrone, the black waiter in the big gold chain, gets into trouble with authority for wearing what looks like a Cross Colours shirt that should be all black by regulation), there are of course the gay stereotypes of gossipy, love-obsessed men who snap their fingers and roll their eyes; and when it comes to the black, gay character, well, you can’t expect them to know what to do with him. Although, oddly enough, thanks to the actor Wilson Cruz’s comedic timing, he provided the other handful of chuckles.

Acknowledging that yes, sometimes women do go a little crazy for love, lust and everything in between, the film is still lazy and unimaginative in its character choice and development, and in the story it chooses to tell. It feels as if this story and these people could have existed in the 80s or 90s. The film represents very little of what women have learnt and become by the end of the first decade of the 21st century. The message of the famous catchphrase, at least the message I deduce: “if a man likes you he’ll let you know and in the meantime stop giving a crap and do what you want” is one-sided at best. It focuses on men’s behaviour and what women should stop doing or not do in relation to it. It takes the advice from men throughout the film and allows them to make most of the rules. Women only start to make their own rules in the aftermath of men’s disappointing actions. But even if we concede that sometimes that is the way, even the supposedly liberating part of that message, the “do what you want” part, isn’t strong in the film. In the end, it’s just a predictable, little story with predictable, little characters. And not in that “snapshot of the life of a simple, but inspiring person” way. But more in that “what was this about again and wait when did I finish my popcorn oh zzzzzz” way. I would say that that may have been the intention, but somehow, I doubt it.

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