He’s Just Not That Into You

He’s Just Not That Into You is a line from a certain Sex And The City episode, a series that remains unseen by me for the time being. The title alone seems to scream “Chick flick! Chick flick!” in big neon letters. Wrong. He’s Just Not That Into You is Love Actually, The American Way. In short : the love lives of a bunch of different gents and dames through a Panavision lens.

The movie is based on a book. Each segment of roughly half an hour is interrupted by a title card, which could be the title of a chapter. Drew Barrymore happened to be charmed by the book and she decided to put her shoulders to the wheel of a novel-to-screen version. Barrymore has a relatively small part as one of the love craving thirtysomethings, but her main role was being an executive producer.

The cast is succulent and excellent. An ensemble cast can be troublesome, because of go-going egos. The main character – more or less, because she’s the narrator – is Ginnifer Goodwin (known as “Johnny Cash’s first wife” in the still awesome Walk The Line). Her character is called “Gigi”, which can’t be a coincidence. “G(i)G(i)” are the actress’s initials after all. But all players get equal screentime, save for Ben Affleck and the already mentioned Barrymore.

Speaking of Ben Affleck : he’s hardly a great thespian destined for eternity in the vein of Marlon Brand or James Dean, but he truly erases any bad memories with his turn in this movie. “The men” are portrayed as being selfish and careless, but Affleck injects heart and soul in his layered and subtle performance. Justin Long, an unknown for yours truly, is sweet as "that guy every knows that does listen".

Jennifer Connolly (superb in A Beautiful Mind and Labyrinth) could not completely win me over. She’s a fine actress, but she didn’t stand out. The other Jennifer – Aniston – fails, however. All the while, you’re seeing and hearing Rachel Green. If Johnny Depp knows how to reinvent himself for each and every role he accepts, then why does Aniston refuse to break out of the Friends mould?

Scarlett Johansson, without any disrespect for the most beautiful woman on the planet, basically plays herself as well. Her sultry voice and delicious curves warrant buying a ticket, though. “I’m just a woman”, she says at one point. Yep, right, the kind we meet every day on the street, sure. Bradley Cooper, who starts an affair with Johansson in the movie, has been paid to lust for her. I think he merely ripped the cheque and proclaimed : “I’ll do it for free! I’m not worthy!”. Being an actor sure is a hard life.

He’s Just Not That Into You works brilliantly on numerous levels. It’s rare to see a romantic comedy with layers. Ogres have layers, but do these movies have ‘em? The truth hurts and is spoken in this flick. The male clichés and stereotypes are mentioned and confirmed, which made me cringe. We men truly are couch potatoes and chauvinist pigs sometimes.

I repeat my opening statement : He’s Just Not That Into You is NOT a chick flick. It’s a cunningly edited, perfectly performed, visually pleasing and expertly written look at the condition humaine. The movie won’t answer all universal questions regarding love and relationships, but he regularly touches the truth.

A major cinematic surprise (especially considering the horrible title) that should not be missed. See it with your significant other!

Julian De Backer, 19 April 2009