The only thing more fun than old John Hughes movies is talking about them. In the breezily synthetic love roundelay He’s Just Not That Into You, there’s a fun moment when Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a breathtakingly insecure single, tries to figure out her relationship with Alex (Justin Long), a lady-killer of a restaurant manager who has been giving her tips on how to land a guy. Suddenly, she realizes that Hughes’ 1987 opus Some Kind of Wonderful (always underrated in my book) can explain, you know, everything. Gigi, as she tells it, is the equivalent of the Eric Stoltz character, whereas Alex is like Mary Stuart Masterson’s Watts — the loyal, advice-giving friend who starts to want something more than friendship. For a second, I grinned at the knowing (and gender-flipped) use of a so-cheesy-it’s hip teen-movie reference. But then I realized why Gigi and Alex really do seem like characters out of Some Kind of Wonderful. There’s nothing to their relationship — nothing at all — but the thin, Hughesian predicament the two happen to be in. It feels like something out of an old teen comedy because the screenwriters, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, have cobbled together every situation in their film out of familiar, derivative parts: a chick flick here, a Cosmo article there, a Sex and the City confessional voice-over everywhere. And the director, Ken Kwapis, stages it all with the prefab texture of a TV commercial. He’s Just Not That Into You isn’t quite an ensemble romance — it’s more like the diagram for an ensemble romance. Just add water and Kleenex.
Gigi, who narrates the film, is a walking whirlwind of desperation, a doormat Carrie Bradshaw. She?s the sort of girl who annoys guys because she?s just too nervous and eager, and Goodwin (the youngest wife in Big Love) makes her frantic in such a perky, one-note way that there’s no shading to her performance, and no letup either. Her Gigi is like the young Woody Allen played by Rachael Ray — she whines with a megaphone. As Alex, Justin Long is supposed to be a snake with a heart of gold, but Long runs the gamut of expression from a leer to a sneer, and I never bought that this guy would be friends with Gigi, let alone something more.
The other couply complications are a bit more believable, if just as cookiecutter. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston are sweet together as a devoted couple who aren’t married because he ”doesn’t believe in marriage” (it’s odd to see Affleck voice this dated hippie sentiment). Their opposite number: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Connelly as a married pair who’ve so lost their spark that she’s hotter for renovating their home than she is for him. And so he strays, jumping into bed with a curvaceous yoga instructor (Scarlett Johansson), who’s caught up in her own Some Kind of Wonderful conundrum. Her friend-or-is-it-somethingmore? is played by Kevin Connolly, who brings his clean-cut boyish moxie from Entourage — though I wish, as I do watching that HBO show, that Connolly were a little less boyish. He’s like Opie trying to be cool. Johansson, working her lips, looks more than ever like an Andy Warhol Marilyn portrait, and the film needs her husky sensuality, even if it fails to give her a second dimension. The most relaxed, and amusing, performer is Drew Barrymore as a lonelyheart frustrated — convincingly — by the technology of modern dating, which she correctly nails as a series of walls people hide behind. She makes that complaint a cry from the heart.
Like the nonfiction self-help-as-chick-lit book that inspired it, He’s Just Not That Into You lifts its title from a phrase made famous when it was uttered on Sex and the City. Women, the movie says, can find a hundred ways to deny a simple, stark truth: that if a man doesn’t act interested, it’s probably because he’s not interested. That’s a prickly, resonant theme — the way that many women, in essence, will project their tendency to play hard to get onto the men they?re pursuing. The film, though, suggests a more reductive reading: It says women are drama queens, with a gene for deluding themselves. It says that they need to start being more sane about love. But He’s Just Not That Into You turns romantic sanity into something so sanitized that it starts to make delusion look good. C+