He's Just Not That Into You
Romantic comedy. Starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Bradley Cooper, Ginnifer Goodwin and Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Ken Kwapis. (PG-13. 129 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)
So the idea of "He's Just Not That Into You" is that if a guy wants to call you, he will. If he likes you, he will make the effort. And if he doesn't, that means he's not interested. There's an opposite-sex corollary to this, expressed to me by a friend when I was 16 and trying to figure out what was going on with a girl who supposedly liked me. He said, "If you don't know what's going on, nothing's going on." And nothing was.
These aren't profound, breakthrough observations, but they provide enough of a hook on which to hang this long but surprisingly likable comedy, which follows the romantic tribulations of a handful of adults, most of them in their 30s.
"He's Just Not That Into You" never soars, but it never flags. It remains brisk, engaging and pleasant throughout, and face it: If a movie this well made had Spanish or French subtitles, we'd all be talking about it as a searing examination of sexual politics.
The cast is top heavy with famous actresses: Jennifer Connelly, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson. Each gets her moment to show why she bothered making the movie (except Barrymore, who gets off a couple of good lines and that's about all). Connelly has a nice showcase as a control freak, channeling her unconscious anxieties into a home remodel.
Aniston, properly forlorn, is a woman coming to realize that her live-in boyfriend (Ben Affleck) is probably never going to marry her. And Johansson is a dangerous young thing, so intent on seducing a married man that she incites pity for the married man (Bradley Cooper). Johansson's Woody Allen exposure has paid off: In just a few years, she has become a deft comic actress.
But the revelation of "He's Just Not That Into You" is Ginnifer Goodwin, who has mainly worked in television but also had a notable role as Johnny Cash's first wife in "Walk the Line." Bitter and angry in that film, she is completely open, radiant and comically inspired in this one, playing a repeat loser in the game of love. Gigi (Goodwin) has no defenses, gives too much, talks too much and spends a lot of time sitting by the phone. If this doesn't launch Goodwin on a substantial film career, there's no hope.
The movie has a couple of mildly irritating flourishes. It's arranged into chapters (to evoke the self-help book of the same name) and at the start of each, there are mock woman-on-the-street interviews about various romantic topics. "Sex and the City" dropped that self-conscious gimmick after the first season, and it should have stayed dropped.
The movie also does its best to promote our decade's favorite romantic-comedy myth, which is that gay people spend all their free time worrying about the straight friends' sex lives.
Still, somebody in Hollywood has tried to make a thoughtful movie about love, and that rarely happens anymore. Let's take it and like it.
-- Advisory: Sexual situations.
This article appeared on page E - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle