Rating: ♦ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
I just want to preface this by making it abundantly clear that I had to write something Valentine’s Day orientated for a Valentine’s themed Arts Supplement. Yes it’s embarrasing. Yes I also volunteered. Yes I got a impotency-inspring “oh, you poor soul” look from the only attractive cashier at my local cinema when I asked for a single ticket for He’s Just Not That Into You with a takeaway latte in one hand and a bag of cookies in the other, like some lost and bewildered yuppie-puppy looking for shelter. Journalism is a process of sacrifices, and one day I will get paid for watching movies. I’ve got to keep on saying that to myself.
The Valentine’s day rom-com, just like the Halloween slasher, is the cinematic equivalent of masturbation. It is a cheap and ever-present indulgence.
For the money-men, it has a Nigella-esque simplicity – hire a mercenary director, a script-writer willing to jump through hoops, add a couple of marquee names and a couple of up-and-comings, then sit back and watch the box-office swell.
The beauty, of course, is the product meets an unlimited river of demand. Many couples want to go and see a generic, unchallenging, life-affirming love-fest with, if you’re lucky, a bit of wit and sex appeal, or al least some gratutious flesh. For all but the most cynical person, even a trite rom-com can be a guilty pleasure.
So for the criminals behind He’s Just Not That Into You, its almost perversely impressive just how horribly they have managed to mess up such a simple template. This really is a train wreck.
Based on a book by a couple of former writers from the Sex and the City series, this ensemble drama depicts a loosely connected bunch of thirtysomehing, condo-living, art collecting, dead-eyed urbanites as they bicker, whine, whinge and fret about their romantic lives. Sex and the City is the obvious reference point but this film is devoid of the humour, insight and controversy that made the TV show stand out.
Scarlett Johansson aside (who at one point manages to deliver the line “I want to dry-hump your ass.” I hope she enjoyed cashing cheque), it features actors whose careers are teetering on freefall and are drolly going through the motions. Jennifer Anniston’s character is unfeasibly similar to Rachel from Friends, while Ben Affleck is about as wooden as a timber yard.
It fails miserably on almost every level. Running for 130 minutes, most of the inter-relationships have run out of steam by about the 30th. The dialogue is often laughable (depicting a world where people predominatly communicate with the phrases “wow” “ok” and “call me”) and the plot-points are so blatantly telegraphed it hurts.
Worst of all, it patronises its target audience, suggesting women’s lives, minds and overwhelming concerns are completely dictated by the opposite sex.
All in all, He’s Just Not That Into You is about as romantic as food poisoning.
Now give me a job.