Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: He's Just Not That Into You (2009)

He's Just Not That into You
126 minutes
Rated PG-13

I've written at length in the recent past about so-called 'chick flick's that play into what I call female escapist fantasy. It differentiates from male fantasy in that it involves casting off responsibility and living only for yourself (comparably, stereotypical male fantasy movies involve immature boys who 'man up', take responsibility for their actions and are able to live selflessly to their betterment and reward). IE - Sex & The City: The Movie is a female escapist fantasy, while Iron Man is a male escapist fantasy.

What's most intriguing about He's Just Not That Into You is how deftly it avoids the female escapism template for much of its running time. The narrative, as most of you know, involves the intertwining lives of several adult professionals as they navigate the perils of romance and finding or keeping that special someone. By the end of the film, some of these couples will remain intact, some will break apart, and maybe even a new couple or two will be formed. But pretty much every relationship is rooted in a grounded maturity and responsibility. No one casts off their responsibilities for the sake of their own empowerment. Nor does anyone particularly feel the need to save the proverbial day for the sake of their own manhood.

Also worth noting is that the film avoids painting its characters with broad moral strokes. Likable, sympathetic characters do terrible things while maintaining their humanity. This is not a story of good and evil, but about the difficult choices that humans make on the dating scene. Warts and all (and the film's arcs have a certainly perfunctory feel throughout), the film is a worthwhile and semi-realistic examination of how the real world of dating and romance differs from the fairy-tale fantasies sold to men and women of all ages.

He's Just Not That Into You is better than expected, as it's the rare 'chick flick' that doesn't sugarcoat the harsh realities of making relationships work. Everyone in the star-studded cast takes the material seriously (Ginnifer Goodwin fearlessly throws herself into a genuinely obnoxious character), and Justin Long has never been better. It's not a perfect film, but there's certainly more under and on the surface than most large-scale romantic comedies. In fact, its strength comes from its willingness to embrace the inherent drama in its story.

Grade: B

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