26 February 2009

He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

I have quite a bit to say about this movie. So hang around for the ride or eject now. First off, it's well known that I'll take a seat in front of any rom-com, if only to "spoil my love life." Having had my eye on the progression of the movie's title from Sex and the City catchphrase, to book, and now to movie, I was prepared for anything. Well, one of my first friend reviews about the film came from my sister, who literally hopped and skipped out of the move in glee when she saw it last week. Then Lilly gave the movie a favorable review in her wonderfully entertaining post. So I was ready for a winner and that's what I got... sort of.

First, I was thoroughly entertained throughout, even if there were plenty of times/lines when I had to suspend disbelief more than normal. It didn't hurt that two of my top five (Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Connelly) were prominently featured. To sum the whole movie up, I'd say it was like "Harry Met Sally" plus "Love, Actually," two movies I loved and absolutely hated, respectively. Maybe it was just the simple cut-scene interviews that reminded me of "Harry Met Sally," and just the multiple interconnected characters that were like "Love, Actually," but I couldn't shake the comparisons. To be sure, HJNTIY isn't nearly as intelligent or well formed as "Harry Met Sally," the seminal film in romantic comedy history. In fact, maybe we can blame it for all the crappy romantic comedies that have come afterwards. It was so good that it ruined 90% of the copycats that followed.

All that aside, I thought HJNTIY was really well made. Not from a cinematic standpoint necessarily but from a "we reverse engineered every romantic comedy over the past few years, spliced everything together into easily recognizable bite sized chunks/stereotypes, and then blended it all together with a dash of new ideas." It was a romantic comedy smoothie and while it wouldn't win any awards for originality, I think the movie did a good job of integrating the various storylines together (except for the Drew Barrymore one) and justified the long running time.

Plus, on top of all that, it provided some excellent food for thought, as it brought up a potpourri of romantic situations that are just dying to be dissected and reflected upon. All in all, I liked the movie. But then there's a dark side to that.

I kind of hated the happy ending. I know, I know, happy endings are a pre-req for this type of thing. But as Lilly pointed out, that wasn't the message of the book. According to an Amazon review, the book is meant "for the twentysomething career women who have been dating for a while, [and aims to share] the empowering message that a woman deserves a man who truly loves her and not one that she must constantly make excuses for." That would have been a fine message, and I'm not sure that's what we got when the credits rolled. What I heard was the more traditional "love (should) conquer all" tune playing and I didn't like it one bit. I prefer my happy endings with some bite I guess. Or at least a twist. Or at least earned.

We watched the movie with two guys and two girls. The two of us guys liked the movie infinitely more than the girls. In fact, my friend sitting next to me could barely force herself through the whole thing. Afterwards, as we stood in the recently rainy streets of San Francisco, I heard the girls' take about how demeaning and cookie cutter crazy the movie made women seem. They objected to the way all the female characters were depicted as being detail obsessed and unhinged from reality. I said that it was a natural progression of our post-Sex and the City view on how a group of girlfriends are. They said that it was an insult to compare the way these characters interacted to how Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte were. I can concede that point, I guess, since Sex and the City is a hundred times cleverer and ten times more nuanced than anything HJNTIY had to offer.

While I could take an equal stance on the merits and failures of "He's Just Not That Into You," I think the movie exceeded my expectations and there were numerous moments when it made me think about my past relationships and the relationships of people I know. There could probably be a fun game trying to figure out which combination of the characters (and couple situations) everyone most related to. And isn't a relatable romantic comedy already a success?

For the record, this is potentially a terrible movie to watch with your significant other. I imagine thousands of couple fights broke out on Valentine's Day when this movie came out. Whew! Too many of the situations hit too close to home and that's just a mess all around, unless you have a picture perfect relationship and you can just hug each other and say "Oh I'm so glad we're in a perfect relationship honey!" But that probably didn't happen, did it?

Bonus: I stumbled across this page that offers up the essentials (and story structure) for writing a romantic comedy. It's fascinating and I can't wait to see how it matches up to romantic comedies I've seen. Step four, for example, states: "At about page 50, they kiss, have sex, or say 'I love you' for the first time." How did they come up with page 50? Inteeeeresting.