I went into He’s Just Not That Into You having heard worrying tales of how depressing it was from my friends. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised.
The audience is faced with a multitude of characters in a multitude of storylines, revealing this lit-to-flick adaptation’s origins as a self-help book. The writers achieve a balancing act that circus performers would be proud of in keeping each of the starry ensemble’s disparate stories ticking along nicely before resolving them in a not-too-cloyingly-neat manner, whilst fleshing out what is presumably fairly dry relationship guidance prose into actual plots.
Consequently, there are actually enough plots for about 5 movies (hey, that’s 5 more than most indie films manage). What they all have in common is romance, of course, but it pays to not plump yourself down with your popcorn expecting the usual fluffy rom-com clichés. What you actually get are some well-observed witty truisms about relationships – girls believing guys are mean to us because they secretly like us, coming up with convoluted reasons why he hasn’t called, the implausible stories about friends-of-friends who make love work despite the odds. All these antics look patently ridiculous on the big-screen, especially when exposed by Justin Long’s everyman, but they’re all horrifying recognisable from real life.
Jennifer Connelly’s storyline sees her as a repressed suspicious wife (to The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper), Jennifer Aniston as the woman who can’t make her long-term boyfriend (Ben Affleck, at least attempting to act in a manner other than wooden) commit. Both plots are told in a pleasingly low-key manner and are all the better for being without the expected fireworks and melodrama; both characters manage to be more sympathetic precisely because the actresses playing them don’t jump for the ‘pity-me’ jugular.
IMDB trivia states that Connelly gets just 25 minutes screentime, Aniston only 20. Heaven alone knows how many Drew Barrymore gets then (12?!), yet she is typically luminous in her role, with her story of navigating the perils of techo-romance offering some light relief. In a cast that also includes Scarlett Johansson as a mistress, it’s surprising that the least-familiar name (Ginnifer Goodwin) bags the biggest storyline as the desperate girl whose actions are watch-through-fingers cringeworthy yet you can’t help realising you’ve probably been guilty of in the past (not something I cared to share with my boyfriend though!).
People’s disappointment in this film lies with its marketing department, who couldn’t resist the temptation to pepper their posters with love-hearts and photos of the all-too attractive cast smiling in a sunny manner. Although the end is uplifting, there are bumps along the way (and no, we don’t just mean Affleck’s acting) but they’re all-too realistic bumps dealt out with a nice dollop of wit and an air of freshness, taking this a notch above the rom-com formula. I’d take it over Love Actually any day of the week.