Wednesday, March 11, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

Movies like He's Just Not That Into You help me understand why some people say women are stupid. I sound rigid and severe, I know, and I run the risk of making the same vapid generalizations I will eventually accuse this movie of making. But any attempts to be moderate or polite would take titanic effort, and I would much rather put my energy into being as unfair and bleak as I believe this movie was.

As can probably be surmised from the title, He's Just Not That Into You is about a group of women needing to realize that their men (who vary from first dates to long-term boyfriends to husbands) exhibit behavior that can only suggest one thing--right, you guessed it, he's just not that into them. There is Gigi who laps after every guy who buys her a vodka tonic and who develops an implausible relationship with Lothario Alex who is also best friends with Conor who lusts after Anna who is sleeping with married man Ben who is ambivalent about his wife Janine who is best friends with Beth who can't get her boyfriend of seven years, Neil, to agree to marry her.

I can get on board with the premise. Let's find a way to encourage women to stop having cranky, boring conversations with themselves and their friends about guys who aren't responsive. I want to believe that what this movie (and the book upon which it was based) meant to do was give women the freedom to trust themselves, to believe in themselves enough to ditch guys who aren't receptive and whose unavailability makes them more appealing. Instead of crying over the guy who isn't calling us, we should be more honest, open our eyes, and devote our attention to the guy who is returning our phone calls.

Sounds fine and good, but it doesn't work. This movie should have been titled He Is Just That Into You- after watching these women get crapped on for two hours, somehow most of the scenarios result in a happy ending or sense of romantic completion. There is the usual set-up, during which the context and conflict unfold, but after flimsy happenings, Beth gets Neil to propose, Gigi has Alex knocking on her door in the middle of the night, and Anna receives countless calls from Ben even after he fucked his wife with her in the next room. Awww, so sweet. And while Janine does leave Ben after his infidelity and starts to take baby steps towards her new found freedom, everything else is so pitiful and annoying, it doesn't even matter. This movie teaches us the opposite of its original premise. It takes everything it sets up in the first hour (don't call him if he's not calling you; be suspicious if he stops having sex with you; if he's married, chances are he's just with you to get some tail; if he doesn't marry you now, he never will) knocks it down and asks us to ignore it all. Ladies, he is just that into you- you just have to break up with him to get him to realize it.

We don't even get the Sex and the City camaraderie. We never see the women providing real support. Sex and the City- an episode of which provided the nugget of pure genius that inspired this movie- did a much better job of showing the ways in which platonic love was real, necessary, and just as crucial as any sort of romantic partnership. At the very least, it reminded us that some of the joy to be derived from difficult moments is related to the ability to discuss it with the people who love you and know you better than you know yourself.

But He's Just Not That Into You preferred to play on the surface of things. And- in a way that hearkens back to Sex and the City- to get on board with its suggestions is to buy into the idea that romantic love is only for white, straight pretty people with good teeth and bouncy hair. I won't say too much about the gay characters in the movie (sex-crazed men only around to offer advice to the straights in distress) or the people of color (the two black finger-snappin' sistahs extolling the virtues of ribs and ice cream as a way to overcome their sadness, or the unspecified African women sitting around a fire explaining that the reason he didn't call was because he was eaten by a lion). But I will say that this movie, and the idiots who made it, ought to be hanging their heads in shame.

I don't blame He's Just Not That Into You for not telling the truth. Romantic comedies aren't here to elucidate all that doesn't make sense in the world, but this could have been better. It could have held onto its main idea and still hewed to the romantic comedy statistical mean (yes, there's trouble in paradise, but love will find a way) without turning into a pile of raw, stank crap. It could have had tighter dialogue, characters that made sense, and a plot that actually went somewhere. It could have been a movie about love that actually had a heart. It could have been like many other movies that come out- vapid but fun, superficial but whimsical, and not utterly annoying and stupid.

1 comment:

  1. great entry eboni, so intelligent. i can hear you saying all of these things too and it makes me miss you all the more. check out my facebook profile picture!