“He’s Just Not That Into You” has all the components of the unapologetic chick flick: Scenes representing girl chats, heavy-handed portrayals of the archetypal disinterested man and the all-important femme fatale – yoga instructor and aspiring singer Scarlett Johansson. But even in shamelessly perpetuating these tropes, the film, based on the book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, does its work to entertain.
With stylistic similarities to “Love Actually,” the film, set in Baltimore, positions the viewer as an observer of the interwoven lives of characters that are confused about the opposite sex.
The film opens as ever-hopeful narrator, Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), experiences a blind date, with all its discomfort and uncertainty. This single encounter introduces the intricacies of the dating pool and allows for the development of a series of subplots, separated into topic headings like “… After he’s cheated” and “…What now?”
As the plot develops, icons of the chick flick genre are introduced as individuals in different stages of relationships. Jennifer Aniston plays Beth, an older woman looking to marry her boyfriend of seven years. Drew Barrymore plays Mary, a woman rejected by “seven types of technology,” and Kevin Connolly plays Conor, a man who wishes his girl friend would turn into his girlfriend.
Although the film – boasting production and screen credits from Drew Barrymore – tries for complexity through parallel plot lines, it is predictable. For connoisseurs of the girl-drama formula, there will be few surprises, as each subplot culminates in prepackaged neatness. The film even lowers itself to a not-so-thinly-veiled moment of Crest Whitestrips product placement, when Gigi finds a box in her date’s medicine cabinet and tries to brighten her smile.
Following the blueprint of the book, the title resurfaces to position the film as a how-to guide of dating and relationships, including interspersed interviews with nameless characters, in an attempt to offer the viewer a sense of collective insight and shared experience.
“He’s Just Not That Into You” falls back on the golden rule posited in any chick flick: Follow your heart, and it will work out. It gives the film a frame that it is built to criticize. Still, familiar devices like love reunited and sentimental feelings finally expressed give it an easy charm.
“He’s Just Not That Into You” is playing in theaters nationwide.
This article appeared in the February 12, 2009 issue of the Hatchet.