Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"He's Just Not That Into You"

Because I can't countenance movies with violence, suspense or slapstick, when I'm invited to the screening of a romantic comedy, the answer is ...when do we leave?

"He's Just Not That Into You" is just the sort of film I enjoy, and the pre-release hype was exceptionally effective in piquing my interest.

(I was only slightly hesitant since I'd just seen "New in Town," a romantic comedy that put a fish-out-of-warm-water [in this case actress Renee Zellweger as Miami exec Lucy Hill] into the bitter chill of a New Ulm, MN winter. The predictable romance with union rep Ted Mitchell [Harry Connick, Jr.] is as cheesy as the yogurt produced by the Munck food factory Lucy comes to downsize. A must-miss.)

"He's Just Not That Into You," on the other hand, was smart, sassy, and its romantic set-ups on-pitch. Not that my blessed life ever resembled any of the five or six women and just as many men that form the web of characters seemingly seeking vastly different things from their relationships. And what an attractive web this is: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Lane, Scarlett Johansson plus many more equally alluring young adults.

Does everyone want love? Implicitly, deep down inside, yes. But in the pairing process, do guys want sex and girls want commitment? Definitely.

I enjoyed the New York Times' article on "Into You" director Ken Kwapis, who has been married 18 years to writer Marisa Silver, his co-director on "He Said, She Said." That was a film where each spouse directed half the story about a almost-committed relationship from the point of view of his/her own gender. "Into You" is similar, with one character, who runs a bar, advising a lonely patron about the harsh realities of male communication, and one of the stories about a couple at the "fish or cut bait" moment. There's also a shaky marriage where trust is an issue, and the self-destructive bottle-blonde who wants what she can't have. Throw in a couple cute but faltering ladies never called by skanky, selfish guys and like that sliced kids' book with differently-composed head, body and feet you can rearrange into any combination, you've got pretty close to all the possibilities any romantic comedy ever offered. All in one movie.

The good thing is that with so many relationships going on, each with a plausible core, and with so many quirky and vulnerable people, you're never bored. In fact, writers Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein avoided typical chick flick cliches so assiduously that the movie's website offers a giggle-worthy short portraying each of the top ten romantic comedy devices not in the film--using "Into You's" three cutest male stars for all the roles.

Still, there are plenty of cliches to go around. And of course, nobody in the film ever has any connection to religion (not even in either of two weddings shown), and there's no church given even the nod of a quick scenery shot. In addition, the product placements are just too obvious--with Crest Whitestrips so prominent that after our screening, samples of the tooth whiteners were given out as souvenirs.

Also, no normal, happy marriages earn even a mention, and there's only one person on camera who appears to be over age 35--and even he (Kris Kristofferson) is alone. Finally, if a Martian gleaned his view of earth life from this movie, he'd get the idea that gays make up about a third of the population--and invariably are in advisory positions to all the clueless straights around whom they hover.

Still, this movie met my criteria for an entertaining evening out. My sorority daughter, upon hearing I was on my way to the screening, responded, "Awwww! I wanted to go see that!" And I'm sure she, and every chick who ever settled into a velvet seat with a box of popcorn, will, too. A nice diversion, providing me some juicy fodder for the book I'm writing, and another reminder of why I'm so glad I'm married to the man I am.

But no matter your romantic situation, "Into You" leaves a lot more to chew on than a few kernel-husks stuck in your teeth.


  1. Yay! This movie is definitely on my to-do list of random (slightly frivolous) things to do when not doing schoolwork!

  2. We're still working through our Oscar must-sees and went to "Gran Torino" last weekend. I loved the Catholicity in that movie. Eastwood was awesomely male. Not enough real men in movies anymore.

    My favorite genre is romantic comedy. I'm so glad you do reviews because in this genre, your partner-who-is-into-you can never muster much more than 2 stars and that just leaves us clueless. Thanks!

  3. I will probably end up seeing this with my wife, her mother, and her sister this weekend. I have a free movie pass, so it's not like I'm paying to see it. I would not bother if it wasn't free.

  4. If you liked it, it must be good. Off I go! (It's fun pretending to have easy and carefree life.) :-)