Some movies elevate our spirits with the reassurance of common humanity. Some reduce us with the reiteration of generic banality. Some movies drive us back to the books from which they were derived by whetting our appetite for life; some, by spoiling it. You see where this is going.
In He’s Just Not That Into You, director Ken Kwapis looks on with passive approval as Never Been Kissed alumni Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein give Sex and the City alumni Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s bestseller the blandly standard-issue big-screen treatment: a broad-strokes portrait of the interconnected love lives of several young Baltimoreans. Well, they’re said to be in Baltimore, anyway, and comely neo-yuppie whateversomethings who’ve lived there probably will recognize the place, but to the uninitiated, it looks more like The Charm City™ Upper Middle Class Outdoor Mall and Matchmaking Theme Park. This can’t possibly be the same place where they shot The Wire, can it?
The Whitman’s Sampler of eye candy includes Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long, Ginnifer Goodwin, Drew Barrymore (an executive producer) and Kris Kristofferson. (What? He counts.) Plus a few shallow yet morally supportive gay men hovering at the periphery like well-trained pets. He’s Just Not That Into You has a way of seeming perfectly cast that is not exactly a compliment to its cast: The characters don’t register as completely human, and identifying with them only means finding their plot-mandated follies — various phobias, miscalculations and other mutilations of commitment — at least plausibly familiar.
Of course there is some truth in the palpable desperation with which nearly everybody on display here seems to wonder whether his or her conduct of relationships constitutes, as more than one person puts it, “the exception” or “the rule.” And at least Long, the Mac-ad maestro whose magnanimity has become a dumb-movie secret weapon (see also Live Free or Die Hard, Zack and Miri Make a Porno), gives his pronouncement-making bar manager something like a range — from decent to douchey and back again — in order to attract and confound Goodwin’s sweet yet improbably overdetermined corporate neurotic.
But in the grander scheme, how lazily self-defeating it is to make a movie by propagating that stale old notion of true companionship as a function of social conformity — a movie whose worldview amounts to It’s so true: Dudes do that; chicks are like that.
He’s Just Not That Into You begins by limply appealing to all of womankind with rhetorical why-do-we-torture-ourselves incredulity, then spends an hour and a half playacting the torture. Its answer to the depressing sense that we’ve allowed a cluster of increasingly hollow social rituals to overwhelm and isolate us is being one of them.
But such is the soul-gutted prefab opportunism to be expected from a movie whose original source was a cheekily derisive if briefly resonant line of Sex and the City dialogue — which no amount of When Harry Met Sally-style direct-address interludes can completely authenticate. And whatever humor and solace the book had to offer, the movie of He’s Just Not That Into You apparently can’t help but dilute it.