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He's Just Not That Into You

(2009) ** Unrated
130 min. New Line Cinema. Director: Ken Kwapis. Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Connelly, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, Bradley Cooper, Scarlett Johansson.

/content/films/3337/2.jpgGreg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo's Rules-ish relationship guide He's Just Not That Into You makes a perverse title for a romantic comedy, especially one strategically positioned for the Valentine's Day crowd. If "Secrets and Lies" weren't already taken, it'd be just as applicable a title. He's Just Not That Into You is a sorry excuse for a Valentine's Day date movie: those who can relate to these characters are liable to slip into depressive funks, and despite a third-act "hail Mary" pass of happiness to most of the characters, the movie may ruin some evenings with its reflective relationship drama.

I don't mean to imply that one can't take this movie with good humor and for its smooth stylings (courtesy of director Ken Kwapis) and attractive actors, but the characters and situations seem designed to upset if not alienate. Echoing the book, the film lays out signs that he or she just isn't that into you: "...if he's not calling you," "if he's not marrying you," "...if she's not sleeping with you," and "...if he's sleeping with someone else." Of those four signals, two prove to be out and out wrong, which says something about the book, the movie or more likely both: that relationship advice is of only limited usefulness and as likely to confuse as to clarify.

Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck play Beth and Neil, a functional couple of seven years that faces derailment over the issue of marriage: he does't believe in it; she can't let go of the idea, which she's programmed to believe is the only irrefutable evidence of commitment. Scarlett Johansson plays Anna, a relationship predator who decides she's going to steal Ben (Bradley Cooper) from his wife Janine (Jennifer Connelly); the task is made easier by the fact that Janine, for unexplained reasons, has long ago ceased sexual relations with Ben.

Meanwhile, Conor (Kevin Connelly) continues to pine for Anna, who's been flirtily stringing him along, and the ultra-neurotic Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) stalks Conor after an amiguously promising first date. It turns out this is a pattern of behavior by Gigi: she gets a straight-talking relationship lecture (Behrendt and Tuccillo-style) from Conor's roomie Alex (Justin Long): "You all thrive on the drama." For good measure, there's a side order of Drew Barrymore (also an executive producer) as a woman stymied by modern media's stranglehold on dating ettiquette: "People don't meet each other organically anymore...Now you have to go around checking all these different portals just to be rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting!”

It's largely the point that these characters are their own worst enemies, but it's hard to sympathize with characters who are nakedly pathetic, however cute (Gigi); wantonly destructive to someone else's relationship, however sexy (Anna); self-destructively hung up on a ring, however good-hearted (Beth); or sublimating concerns about a sexually dead marriage into a pricy home renovation (Janine). The women are developmentally arrested children or otherwise psychologically damaged: not exactly the stuff of escapist cinema. As for the men, two are callous and caddish, but redeemable; one remains a world-class jerk; and one is a fantasy-ideal mate from start to finish. For the record, the script should be bipartisan, as it's written by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein.

He's Just Not That Into You deserves points for trying, when so many romantic comedies indulge fantasy without any kind of reality check. Still, the ending rewards insecure behaviors with spontaneous happiness for the vast majority of the cast: where's the reality check in that? Of course dating instills fear, and some people need to hear the lesson to check their delusion about men's level of interest and commitment. But the sanest voice (and the subtlest performance: who woulda thunk it?) comes from Ben Affleck, who asks, "Why can't we just be happy?" and means it. Couples who want to stay happy might want to think twice before seeking out a movie about how the majority of relationships end up making people paranoid and miserable.

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Aspect ratios: 2.4:1

Number of discs: 2

Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1

Street date: 6/2/2009

Distributor: Warner Home Video

It's another crisp hi-def new release transfer from Warner Brothers for the Blu-ray of He's Just Not That Into You. Warm and vibrant colors are a hallmark of this picture, and detail and depth are impressive for an all-around accurate and pleasing image. The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix doesn't offer a lot of excitement as the surround channels don't have a lot to test them (bar ambience mostly), but nevertheless, this is a definitive audio rendering and happily gets the job done with ultra-clear dialogue.

In bonus features, Baltimore Blade: The Relationship Issue is an interactive issue of the film's fictional paper. Advertisements link out to in-character interview footage revealing how their lives "have changed since the conclusion of the film." Included are "Beth & Neil" (3:17, HD), "Gigi & Alex" (4:26, HD), "Anna" (2:51, HD), "Mary & Conor" (2:23, HD), "Janine" (2:45, HD), and "Ben" (2:51, HD).

"Six Words that Make Up a Film" (11:04, HD) is a making-of featurette explaining the project's origins and the approach of the filmmakers and cast. Participants include He's Just Not That Into You co-authors Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt, Ginnifer Goodwin, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long, producer Nancy Juvonen, director Ken Kwapis, screenwriters Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein, Scarlett Johansson, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Aniston, and Kevin Connelly.

In "The Director Stages a Scene: Duet for Telephones" (4:02, HD), Kwapis talks us through his choices in staging and filming what can often be very static on film: a telephone call—in this case between Gigi and Alex.

Five "Deleted Scenes" (13:45 with "Play All" option, HD) come with optional commentary by director Ken Kwapis.

Lastly, a second disc houses a Digital Copy of the film for greater playback flexibility.

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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