Very Long Rom Com Dram
Five very likable couples that have some connection to one another traverse the choppy waters of romance in Baltimore. That's the short of the new romantic comedy – drama "He's Just Not That Into You". And it is an interesting, if entirely unoriginal idea. But the filmmakers take some good, interesting elements and make the story funnier and more enjoyable than it has a right to be.
In a film like this, with so many characters, a film attempting to make light of and dramatize the many aspects of romance, you know that every character is going to have one aspect of a personality. There are simply too many people for the writers and director to be able to delve into any of the characters in any depth. When the writers and directors have the skill to create more than a few real life, fully rounded, believable characters, you know you are in the hands of people with real talent. Usually, the end result is something magical. "He's Just Not…" is not magical, but it has a few funny moments. And these moments are made all the more enjoyable by the likable cast.
Neil (Ben Affleck) and Beth (Jennifer Aniston) are very much in love and have been together for seven years. But Beth wants to get married and Neil doesn't believe in it. Can Beth accept the status of their relationship and continue on, or will she jeopardize the relationship by insisting on marriage? Ben (Bradley Cooper) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly) are married, but aren't particularly happy. Janine seems to be more interested in renovating their house. When Ben meets Anna (Scarlett Johannson), a yoga teacher who wants to be a singer, he finds an undeniable attraction to her. But he doesn't want to jeopardize his marriage. But what if Anna is the love of his life? Mary (Drew Barrymore) works at ad sales for Baltimore's gay weekly and gets most of her dating advice from her gay co-workers. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), the film's guide, goes on a blind date with Conor (Kevin Connolly), a realtor. She is sure he will call back, but he is more interested in going out with Anna, a girl he is clearly infatuated with. Distraught, Gigi decides to visit a spot Conor told her he hangs out at, a restaurant owned by Alex (Justin Long), a womanizer who is also Conor's friend. He likes Gigi and decides to become her romantic guide.
So, it's all very predictable. But director Ken Kwapis (who has recently been directing episodes of "The Office") and writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein manage to generate a few laughs and make most of the characters at least interesting.
But all of this good will begins to evaporate. And evaporate very quickly. With five different 'couples', we have five different and distinct story lines. Yes, they overlap, but not a lot. So the film sets up a Round Robin-type of exposition. First we meet all five couples and learn why they are in this Rom Com Dram. The very broad strokes. Then, we start to explore their lives with them, delving deeper into the problems. Then we revisit them. Unfortunately, a lot of these 'visits' start to become very repetitive. A couple has an argument and then breaks up. We see the male living out of the apartment. We see the female unhappy. Will they get back together? Of course. But we have to sit through a number of scenes of each of them unhappy. What about Janine's discovery that Ben might be smoking. First, she accuses Ben. When he denies it, she turns to their foreman (Luis Guzman). She seems to accept the mystery of the cigarettes, but every time we see her, she either mentions them or looks at them or talks about them. This is used to illustrate the state of their relationship, but it really just illustrates the state of our fatigue at sitting in the theater for so long. Conor pursues Anna and wants to have a committed relationship with her. But she is attracted to Ben. And he can't sleep with her because it would affect his marriage. These three circle each other, engaging in various conversations. Soon, it really seems like some scenes are being repeated, almost verboten. And it becomes a chore to sit through the film.
A big part of the problem is the film is too long. Way too long, by like 30 or 40 minutes. At 129 minutes (it seems longer), this romantic comedy/ drama has too much time on its hands giving it the luxury to rehash stories and ideas we have already seen. If the film were, say, 90 minutes, a lot of this repetition would be impossible and the film would seem funnier (because the laughs would be more closely spaced together) and overall better (because everything would move at a faster pace.
Producer Drew Barrymore and her business partner Nancy Juvonen are smart producers. Adapting a 'self-help' book in to a fictional romantic comedy/ drama seems like an iffy proposition at best. But they clearly saw that it could work and adapting the former mega bestseller into a movie has now created a hugely popular movie going experience. Barrymore and Juvonen are also behind the "Charlie's Angels" films. So, they clearly recognize material that will draw people to the multiplex. It's too bad they can't recognize quality material and bring better films to the same legions of people so willing to drop $10 for a movie ticket.
Throughout the film, there are a number of moments when the screen flashes a line, presumably a bon mote of self-help gleamed from the bestseller. Then, we watch as a random person tells a quick story about their romantic life meant to illustrate this statement. Why are random people talking to us? Some of these moments are funny, but wouldn't it be a better idea to use the well-known actors you already have in the film for these moments? It would also help to make us more familiar with these same characters as we would get another little glimpse into their characters. Too bad. A wasted opportunity. As they stand, these moments only serve to make the film seem even longer.
"He's Just Not That Into You" is a good date movie. But I would really recommend renting it on DVD and forcing your boyfriend to watch it with you at home. He will quickly become so bored he will agree to do anything for you. You could probably get him to clean the house, bake a pie, run the vacuum. Because it will quickly become apparent that He's Just Not That Into This Film.