'He's Just Not That Into You'
The film adaptation, a sprawling, many-threaded series of stories that play out each of these dynamics in turn, has other advice: Fight with him. Cry. Chase him and humiliate yourself. Complain to some girlfriends. Consult one of the helpful, perky, sexless gay men who seem to be everywhere. And then back off for a while. Chances are excellent that he'll come to his senses and become Just That Into You. After all, he's in a romantic comedy, right?
Until a rash of ridiculous happy endings takes all the bite out of the premise, "He's Just Not That Into You" has some fun with its bubble-gum tone. Like the book and the "Sex and the City" episode that inspired it, it sets out to soften its stinging message with a playful, lively approach. A wry opening montage pokes fun at the terrible relationship advice women give each other in the name of being supportive. In a series of brief interludes, supporting players talk directly to the camera about relationship mistakes. Director Ken Kwapis ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") assembles the whole thing like a scrapbook full of bright, happy colors.
But before long, melodrama asserts itself. Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin from "Big Love") is hoping that big things will come from a blind date with Conor (Kevin Connolly), but he hasn't called. He's too busy being hung up on his friend Anna (Scarlett Johansson), who's content to use and abuse him. Anna has just met and become obsessed with Ben (Bradley Cooper), a faithful but tempted man in a rocky marriage with Janine (Jennifer Connelly).
And to further complicate things, Anna's friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) is failing to find love through personal ads and phone messages. Meanwhile, Janine and Gigi work with Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who has been in a relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years and is infuriated over his failure to pop the question.
Much as with "Closer," or other everything-is-connected movies like "Short Cuts" and "Crash," many of these individuals are linked in other ways, and their interactions further shape their relationship problems. In particular, Conor's friend Alex (Justin Long) becomes the voice of the book, patiently explaining to the embarrassingly desperate Gigi that she needs to stop chasing men who don't care about her and start paying attention to the obvious signs.
Problem is, nothing is obvious to the movie's bland, shrill women except that they aren't getting exactly what they want. Most of the guys -- Affleck in particular -- seem patient, good-natured and a little baffled by comparison. They just have interests beyond the immediate needs of their relationships, unlike their female analogues. Among the men, only Connolly is stuck pining after a love interest who isn't into him, and only he opens himself up to the kind of awkward, needy behavior common to the female cast. Some of the players comport themselves better than others -- Barrymore is sweetly wistful in her minor role, while Johansson, as a confident go-getter who sets out to steal her crush object rather than moon over him, is sexier than the whole cast put together.
But most of them come across as limp and whiny, or, in Goodwin's case, tacky and awful. And as the film ditches all pretense at handing out good advice, it barrels toward a conclusion where their selfish, immature or just plain silly choices are mostly rewarded.
In a summary at the end of their relationship manual, Behrendt and Tuccillo explain that you -- yes, you -- are not the exception to the rule, and you shouldn't hang around in a bad relationship, waiting for it to improve. The film version isn't even subtle about contradicting this sensible approach in favor of a feel-good ending: One character actually burbles, "I'm the exception to the rule!" when she realizes that, contrary to all sense, the man who just wasn't that into her has magically come around. Granted, there's no reason people should be getting their relationship advice from a shallow romantic comedy. But there's no reason they should embrace its attempts to insult their intelligence, either.