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He’s Just Not That Into You

...And You Won’t Be Into This

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

With Valentine’s Day only a week away, along comes He’s Just Not That Into You, an Altmanesque romantic comedy centered on several couples, their friends, and (possible) lovers. Directed by Ken Kwapis (The Office, License to Wed, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and adapted by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein from Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s "Sex and the City"-inspired self-help book, He’s Just Not That Into You dramatizes the “insights” (if you want to call it that) that made Behrendt and Tuccillo’s book a runaway success with the dating challenged. The film is, whatever its faults (and it has many), a “perfect” date movie for all but the most cynical of couples and, of course, out-of-relationship individuals (aka singles).

He’s Just Not That Into You follows romance-and relationship-starved Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), as she embarks on her first date with Conor (Kevin Connolly), a successful, self-centered real estate agent. Conor, however, is still hung up on Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a blonde yoga instructor and sometime singer. He wants commitment, she doesn’t. At a supermarket, Anna flirts with Ben (Bradley Cooper). Ben is married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly). Janine works at a spice company (where work takes a distant second to romance talk) with both Gigi and a close friend, Beth (Jennifer Aniston). Beth and her longtime, live-in boyfriend, Neil (Ben Affleck), are at a crossroads: she wants a ring as a symbol of their lifetime commitment and he’s opposed to marriage in principle.

Hoping to “casually” run into Conor at one of his favorite haunts, Gigi instead strikes up a conversation with Conor’s friend, Alex (Justin Long), a cynical bar/restaurant owner and womanizer who, out of boredom, sympathy, or other motivation, decides to share his rarefied insights on the male psyche with Gigi. Mary (Drew Barrymore), a sales agent for a gay weekly, "The Baltimore Blade", appears in the margins as Anna’s best friend, sounding board, and comic relief featuring gay, swishy men (obligatory for modern-day romantic comedies, apparently).

From there, He’s Just Not That Into You follows a predictably meandering path toward romantic consummation, reconciliation, or separation for each mini-storyline. Alone, the individual storylines never stray from the romantic comedy-drama clichés: the cynical character who finds himself falling in love; the character spurred into breaking up with her longtime boyfriend because her younger sister has just announced her engagement; the befuddled, clueless male character in love or in lust with a woman way out of his league; and the thirty-something, married character regretting his decision to get married when a hot, younger woman shows romantic interest in him. Together, the mini-storylines make for a very long two-plus hour moviegoing experience.

As Beth, Aniston is well inside her comfort zone (e.g. relationship-obsessed thirtysomething women), but she gives an unenthusiastic, unenergetic performance. Although he’s barely onscreen, Affleck gets a chance to credibly emote as Beth’s commitment-phobic boyfriend. Neither Cooper nor Johansson does much with their roles as potential lovers. As Janine, Jennifer Connelly suffers quietly as she watches her supposedly “happy” marriage dissolve. Barrymore appears in several disconnected, unnecessary scenes. In a role tailor made for Zooey Deschanel, Ginnifer Goodwin gives a warmly sympathetic performance as Gigi, and Justin Long (the dude from the Apple ads) has his moments, but he’s stuck in an underwritten role as the cynical womanizer who ends up being neither.

Ultimately, He’s Just Not That Into You is a by-the-numbers romantic-comedy drama made tolerable by slick production values and a surprisingly committed ensemble cast. Unfortunately, Kwapis and his screenwriters didn’t challenge the cast to go above-and-beyond the clichés of the romantic comedy-drama genre. Now if only that much-rumored 20-minute action scene featuring a bare-chested Jason Statham doing what he does best had actually materialized…Wouldn’t that have been something? That’s meant as humor, of course, something He’s Just Not That Into You lacked all too often.