Is your man giving you trouble? Does he fail to return your calls? Is he afraid of commitment? Are you worried it’s your fault? Well, surprise, you’re right: it IS your fault, and he’s NOT an asshole; you’re just an idiot!
Such is the underlying message of Hollywood’s latest fare, “He’s Just Not That Into You,” a movie whose star-filled cast doesn’t nearly make up for its crap-filled plot.
There’s a plethora of one-trait female characters: Dopey (Drew Barrymore), Desperate (Ginnifer Goodwin), Dummy (Jennifer Connelly), Slutty (Scarlett Johansson) and Sappy (Jennifer Aniston). The men are also fairly stereotypical, although they occasionally get a break and are allowed by the script to experience complex emotions and act like real boys.
The characters are all connected in a convoluted network of friendships and professional relationships. In addition, there’s the occasional out-of-the-blue montage of people testifying about THEIR failed relationships. We’re not quite sure who these people are, and I suppose it doesn’t matter, since they are never seen again. “He’s Just Not That Into You” also has the distinction of having the highest gay boyfriend to single chick ratio I’ve ever seen, at 3:1.
I won’t spend too much time teasing out the intricacies of the plot, but basically Desperate can’t get a date, despite the well-meaning (and conflicting advice) she gets from her co-workers Sappy and Dummy, who are both happily taken. OR ARE THEY? Sappy’s boyfriend Scaredy won’t marry her, and Dummy’s husband Crappy is cheating on her w/ Slutty. Meanwhile, Dopey receives a MySpace booty-call and mistakes it for True Love; three wise(cracking) fairies in her office set her straight. While lurking in a bar, trying to stalk Shorty, Desperate encounters Snarky, who informs her that Shorty is “just not into her.” In fact, Shorty is in love w/ Slutty.
And so on. In the end, after what seems like an ETERNITY, everyone but three of the characters is happily paired off.
For me, the most destructive thing about this movie was not its stupidity, was not its OSTENSIBLE message. I am somewhat familiar w/ the book, and basically what it tells women is: Don’t be desperate. It’s tempting…but don’t do it!
This movie pays lip service to that tenant, but it belies those words w/ the actions of its characters, choosing instead to rely on the pseudo-psychology found in 1950’s books on housewifery (i.e. Make him think it’s HIS idea). Dummy only gets her man after she rabidly attacks him. He repels her, cogitates a bit, and then decides he wants her after all, so that she can always be there to refill his chip bowl and take out his garbage, instead of only sometimes! Sappy finally gets her proposal, but only after submitting passively to Scaredy, and subverting her own desire. Once she’s broken, Scaredy kindly throws her a bone in the form of a diamond ring. The women who AREN’T desperate end up alone: Slutty furiously rejects Crappy when she realizes that he’s too spineless to leave Dummy of his own volition. Dummy finally kicks Crappy out, but doesn’t have any offers. Dopey and Shorty come together after SHE calls him!! I mean, what the hell is going on here?
It really is too bad that the movie chose to so egregiously betray its professed theme. Too bad b/c I think many women will be fooled by the dialogue, and fooled into thinking that if they act like the characters who “got their man,” they will find success in relationships.
Yes, it is sad, and it is also scary to find a movie that has been so successful at disguising its true insidious intentions, and that pretends to be “empowering” when it is really degrading.