Everyone’s in love with someone in “He’s Just Not That Into You,” a not-quite-romantic-comedy that should click with the young-adult demos of both sexes. Yes, it makes men look like toads — how else could Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston, Ginnifer Goodwin and several other beautiful women not named Jennifer/Ginnifer be on such a recessionary track in the romance market? But heartache is universal; it knows no cosmetic boundaries. And the New Line pic, pushed back by Warners from fall 2008 to a pre-Valentine’s Day release, effectively taps into the voyeuristic appeal of watching the beautiful suffer.
They certainly suffer. Slickly adapted by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein from the popular book by “Sex and the City” scribes Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, “He’s Just Not That Into You” rolls out like an instructional soap opera. When Gigi (Goodwin) — who might as well have “desperately needy” tattooed to her forehead — doesn’t get a call back from Conor (Kevin Connolly) in the requisite 20 minutes after their date has ended, she has to go into counseling with her friends/co-workers, Beth (Aniston) and Janine (Connelly), and eventually with Alex (Justin Long), the bartender in the joint where Gigi goes to stalk Conor.
While Gigi’s friends talk her off the figurative ledge, it’s Alex who lets her in on a few things, such as how to tell if a guy is never going to call, even though Gigi has a hard time getting any of this through her pretty little romance-befogged skull.
It’s all a matter of expectations, and perhaps fear of fulfillment: Mary (Drew Barrymore), for instance, is the ad manager for a gay Baltimore magazine whose guy-pals help her through one love trauma after another, most of them virtual. She’s got unanswered emails and voicemails and MySpace and Facebook friends, but love is elusive. And so is Mary, if you count face-to-face encounters.
You can’t say helmer Ken Kwapis (“License to Wed,” “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”) or his writers are particularly easy on either sex. There’s far more insight into the female characters, but they, too, are full of foibles. Gigi doesn’t know when to back off. Neither does Janine, whose marriage to Ben (Bradley Cooper) seems OK at first, although she’s a freak about his smoking — which upsets her even more than what transpires between Ben and an overripe tartlet named Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a would-be singer who’s also been leading Conor (remember Conor?) around by the nose.
Beth, meanwhile, learns that her sister is getting married, which throws her seven-year relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck) into disequilibrium: Is he ever going to marry her? No. So she leaves him. And another planet spins out of control.
Despite its layer of darkness (Connelly gives a really rich performance as a woman whose principles back her into a corner), “He’s Just Not That Into You” is a fantasy. No one has a problem except romance. Neil sails a yacht. Ben and Janine are giving their Baltimore apartment an overhaul that would embarrass Architectural Digest. Perhaps that’s the point: No one has anything to distract them from the minutiae of their love lives, which they proceed to incinerate through overanalysis. It’s a moral fable, maybe, if you make half a million a year.
Pic isn’t quite an ensemble piece; it feels as though Goodwin and Long are the frontmen; Aniston, Connelly, Cooper and Connolly are the backup band; and Barrymore and Affleck are the chick singers. Johansson, as usual, is in her own movie. But the pic may also be the first contemporary escapist comedy that feels fully aware of its place in the economic vortex. The lushness, the leisure, the vicarious wealth are all balms to soothe our savaged selves as we look away from the news and onto the screen. Given the state of things, such a movie almost seems like an act of charity toward the public. It’s not screwball comedy, but the underlying sentiments are the same.
Production values are top-notch, especially the work of d.p. John Bailey.