The Movie That Made Me Never Want To Date Again

A tiny part of my heart cheered—this is a woman being smart, rational and sensitive to her partner’s desires!—but then Neil inexplicably proposes anyway at the end and they get married after all.

I would have forgiven this movie for everything else that’s wrong with it (the weird gay stuff, the lack of ethnic color in Baltimore, Justin Long in general) if these two characters had been allowed to be true to themselves—not to be happily married ever after, but just happily ever after. Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck as Beth and Neil were good enough that it seemed real—they were strong the way they were, principled. So why did the filmmakers not trust us, the audience, to accept that too?

 

BUT THAT WAS just the most glaring of the backtracking done in this film. The cast of this movie—no matter what anyone ends up saying about it—is fantastic, which makes it all the more difficult  to make sense of what you’re actually watching. How come Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston haven’t done anything onscreen together before this, when they’re so great together? Jennifer Connelly gives her anal retentive character many shades of gray; Kevin Connolly successfully made us forget about Entourage’s E; Scarlett Johansson is perfectly flighty and sexpotty; Bradley Cooper is believably maybe-shady; and Ginnifer Goodwin is refreshingly charming, even though she plays Gigi, the most pathetically desperate character to come around in some time. Forget the fact that Ms. Goodwin is gorgeous, so it’s hard to believe she’d have trouble getting men to ask her out a second time (even if this does take place in a fantastical loft-and-yacht-filled land called “Baltimore”). It’s hard to imagine any woman who would go to the cyber-stalking and obsessive lengths that Gigi does doesn’t have at least one friend who would take her aside and tell her to dial it down a thousand or, at the very least, not shriek when Gigi thinks some guy really likes her.

She’s like a Cathy cartoon times a thousand, but somehow even more cringe-worthy.

We know there are crazy ladies out there, reading The Rules or hanging out in produce aisles to meet dudes, but did they have to make poor Ginnifer Goodwin this nuts? Why, when the world has lovable, smart and endearingly nutty single lady characters out there like Liz Lemon—why do we need such a depiction? Furthermore, if the filmmakers were going to make Gigi this unhinged, how can they possibly make us believe she’d become sane enough by the end of the film to snag the guy who shunned commitment and live life happily ever after, playing charades in some other couple’s living room?

If “he’s just not that into you” is the mantra that the film preaches—that it’s not that some guy is intimidated by your emotional maturity or happy childhood or successful job or whatever, it’s that he actually just doesn’t want to date you—why oh why did the film take so much time laying out how there are no exceptions to the “no exceptions” rule and then make so many exceptions? I’ve long believed that people can be divided into two camps: those who do and those who do not enjoy Love, Actually. I’m firmly in the enjoy camp: It was nonsensical and unrealistic, sure, but in a good way—it strayed so far from real life (Hugh Grant was the prime minister! And danced around 10 Downing Street!) that one could enjoy it for what it was, a fantasy starring stammering, unbelievably handsome Englishmen and plenty of feel-good happy endings. The problem with He’s Just Not That Into You is that it wants to be that kind of fun plus something more Neil LaBute–ian. It’s like the bizarro version of Your Friends and Neighbors, but unwilling to fully commit to the dark and lonely sadness of it all, so it ties everything together with a big sparkly bow that only undermines the entire message of its first half.

It’s possible that if the cast of this film hadn’t done such a good job—if I hadn’t been able to squint my eyes and see what could have been—I’d have simply waited for its week or two in the news to go away. But as it is, I’m mad, and more than a little depressed. He’s Just Not That Into You? Thanks for telling me it’s even worse out there than I thought.

svilkomerson@observer.com