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He's Just Not That Into You
cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, and Scarlett Johansson

director: Ken Kwapis

125 minutes (12) 2008
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Sony DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Mark West
This multi-strand film, following the lives of several interconnected groups of friends as they essentially fall in and out of love, is based on a bestselling self-help book (which I haven't read). I can't, therefore, say if it sticks close to the source material though it is broken down into rough chapters and does feature some talking-head sections (the dock worker is easily the funniest of these and his "don't chase anyone called Amber, they will not go out with you - trust me" is the best line of the film).

Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a borderline obsessive stalker, who can't seem to get a man to stay interested in her. After failing to stalk Conor (Kevin Connolly) successfully, she gets chatting to his friend Alex (Justin Long), who uses women like it's the 1970s. He helps to guide her through the dating process, giving her tips on how men act and feel and the only people oblivious to their obvious compatibility are the characters themselves.

Gigi's colleague Janine (Jennifer Connelly) is married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) but their marriage, like the townhouse they're renovating, has seen better days. He slowly begins an affair with Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a yoga instructor and singer, which he tells Janine about fairly quickly. She, however, is more concerned that he's lying about smoking (I didn't say this made any sense).

Anna is also tied up with Connor, conducting a semi-serious affair that he wants to make more of, until he eventually hooks up with Mary (Drew Barrymore), her friend who is obsessed with dating that involves technology (MySpace, Blackberry, Facebook, email, the works) rather than face-to-face contact.

Gigi's other colleague is Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who has been with her boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years - she wants marriage, he doesn't. He moves out, she sees how lousy her sisters husbands are, decides to take Neil back and then he proposes to her. All's well that ends well, eh?

Within a few moments of this film starting, you know exactly what you're going to get. It's very well made, glossy and designed to within an inch of its life, featuring beautiful people suffering problems (mostly) of their own making, who all live in huge houses/apartments and have great jobs. That's not an insult, by the way, but it does let the viewer know that nothing awful is going to happen and that the worst a character will suffer will be that they are 'on their own' by the end of the film.

No, my problem with this was much deeper. As a 'chick-flick' (I don't like the stereotype, but that's what this is marketed as), it initially holds up women in a less than favourable light. Gigi is desperate and willing to do whatever is necessary (even stalking) to get her man, Janine is cool and confident and beautiful but about to be passed up in favour of a younger model, and Beth doesn't seem to know quite what she wants - but being married is the answer. Mary is desperate, even to herself and Anna is a free spirit (with a great apartment) who is willing to break up a marriage simply because someone told her that you might not be married to your one true love. It's only in the last ten minutes or so that this trend is bucked slightly, when Gigi and Janine turn themselves around and actually seem to have a bit of a backbone. The film also features some of the most exaggerated gay characters this side of Jack from Will & Grace, and it felt to me (Ben aside) that the film is really rooting for heterosexual males and saying that they can't help the way they are - deal with it, ladies, or leave.

The acting - even from Ben Affleck - is competent to good (the better performances are easily from the lesser known actors), the direction is smooth and assured and the writing is clever. Virtually every role is taken by a well known name, even Janine's contractor (Luiz Guzman) and he manages to have the funniest part in the whole film. Theresa Russell turns up in the deleted scenes as Anna's mother and, come on... any film that can cut Ms Russell out obviously thinks it has enough star power elsewhere.

This isn't a bad film, by any means, but it is bland and, for me, that's difficult to overcome. You know what you're going to get, there aren't many surprises in store for either the viewer or the characters and the whole thing lacks substance and bite. But hey, this is a big-budget Hollywood film crammed full of stars - you know what you're going to get before this is even in the DVD player and if you've chosen to watch it, chances are you're going to enjoy it.

No DVD extras on my screener copy, other than a handful of middling (Theresa Russell aside) deleted scenes.
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