Rom-Com Purgatory: “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
My girlfriend is working on a project about romantic comedies, and as such she’s had to watch a lot of them. I agreed to sit through them with her. These are some of the terrible things I learned…
If you ever wanted reassurance that most of life is just down to luck — if you ever felt the needling suspicion that you could have done better, but fate was against you — look no further than the history of 2009’s “He’s Just Not That Into You.”
Every year, Hollywood releases The Black List, a list of scripts that everyone loves but which haven’t been made yet. Imagine having written one of those. A great, unproduced script that everyone loves but which can’t quite find traction. A minor masterpiece that just needs the right producer, or director, or star to find it and give it the nurturing it requires to create a genuine cinema classic.
Now understand that “He’s Just Not That Into You” was a two hour movie, based on a self help book, which was in turn based on a line of dialogue from an episode of “Sex And The City.”
There is no god, and we are alone in this world.
Anyway, attempting to recap the plot of “HJNTIT” would take me far, far longer than would be worthwhile. My notes from this movie span several pages and most of them are just my own digressions because I was more interested in my own drunk, sloppy handwriting than what was happening on screen. At one point, I faux-melodramatically wrote “HIM!!!” with little round dots under the exclaimations, and my next note was just “That looks like Himbob.”
The best that can be said of this film is that it’s an extended game of “Fuck me, [That Actor] is in this!”
Fortunately, Wikipedia provided some help by summarising the plot in chunks, as this is one of those irritating movies that thinks presenting everything out of order will somehow make up for being fundamentally uninteresting. As such, I’ll be following the same rules and summing up based on whole plotlines rather than attempts at a real-time retelling.
The first plotline revolves around a main character so banal I literally have her down in my notes as WhatsHerFuck, who is terminally bad at reading the cues of potential romantic partners. This could be cute, except that Whatsherfuck seems to have no purpose in life except to find a man and ensnare him. She has no notable hobbies, quirks, or charm, and combines the kind of creepy singlemindedness and puritanical sexual values that made me wonder if she was going to break James Caan’s ankles with a sledgehammer at some point.
Anyway, Whatsherfuck goes on a date with Some Asshole (my notes again), wherein Some Asshole says he’ll call her, and then immediately leaves to call Scarlett Johansson to see if- Fuck me, Scarlett Johansson is in this?!
Anyway, Some Asshole brushes off Whatsherfuck because he’s still trying to bang Scarlett Johansson, who apparently once pity-fucked him. Whatsherfuck waits around for Some Asshole to call, he doesn’t, she eventually turns up at the bar he sometimes goes to in the hopes of running into him. Which would be a stretch at “cute” with a likeable character, but here is just flat out stalking.
Whatsherfuck has it explained to her by the bartender that HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO HER, and immediately makes the Bartender her romance guru. Bartender agrees to help with her love life, they become friends, then Bartender invites Whatsherfuck to a party at his house and makes her serve food and drinks all night while he socialises. He then makes her clean the apartment afterwards.
Whatsherfuck can interpret none of this as a bad sign, because she seems at this point to be the world’s preppiest autistic. Nobody’s gonna Rain Man on HER parade, so she waits until the woman Bartender was really interested in leaves and then launches herself at his face. Bartender responds by rebuffing her and then yelling at her for being so bad at reading people.
After Whatsherfuck leaves, Bartender realises he IS in fact in love with the girl he just screamed at for assuming he was interested in her, and turns up at her apartment. This would be enough to psychologically break some women, but Whatsherfuck, having never had a mind of her own to begin with, accepts him and they kiss to a soundtrack which is attempting to soar, but is trying to do it to a Keane song, which is impossible. They might be the perfect band for a film this banal.
That’s supposed to be the backbone of this movie, but it’s approximately four decades long, so the whole thing is interspersed with other stories. For example, as soon as Some Asshole got off the phone with Scarlett Johansson, she runs into Bradley Cooper, and- Fuck me, Black Widow AND Rocket Raccoon are in this movie?!
Well, anyway, Scarlett Johansson and Bradley Cooper hit it off in a corner store and ScarJo mentions that she’s a singer. Bradley Cooper is a music producer (Record Raccoon, I guess…) so gives her his card but admits that he’s married, so nothing further can happen. He then gets back in the car with his buddy Ben Affleck, who-
Fuck me, Batman is in this, too?! Did any of the cast NOT end up punching people in spandex?!
Anyway, Record Raccoon goes home to his wife, Jennifer Connelly, who seems fine but questions whether he has been smoking. Jennifer Connelly, perfectly understandably, has a problem with her husband smoking since her father died of lung cancer. She even makes sure that none of the construction workers on their house have been smoking, including- holy shit, Luis Guzman is in this?!
As a note to the film makers, if you need to make a wife character unlikeable, you need to work harder than this. This is a pefectly sound character beat on Connelly’s part and doesn’t give Bradley Cooper’s dick license to be in Scarlett Johansson.
Anyway, Record Racoon and Black Widow continue to hang out “as friends,” which is dicey in terms of audience sympathy. Luckily, we understand that they are secretly soulmates because… Um… Look, they have a deep emotional connection that we should be on board with, okay?!
As a surprise to nobody, they eventually start banging and Record Racoon confesses it to Jennifer Connelly. She’s initially annoyed, but decides to try to make their marriage work anyway, like a forgiving and likeable human being. The bitch.
She works with several of the other characters, and in the course of pouring out her heart to them suddenly admits that she is frigid, which hadn’t come up as a plot point at all. Apparently, she and Bradley Cooper just never have sex, so the whole affair was really HER fault somehow, and holy shit, this film hates women even for a romcom. Either way, it’s a left field point that makes you suspect the entire movie was improvised by the actors.
Back at Avengers HQ, Bradley Cooper is trying to help ScarJo with her music career, but they also decide to have illicit sex in his office, despite the fact that it has enormous glass windows, because everyone in this film has some kind of brain damage. In an attempt to repair their marriage, Jennifer Connelly turns up and Bradley Cooper hides ScarJo in a closet. He then proceeds to bang Jennifer Connelly, making me suspect that this movie wasn’t improvised and was actually written by Bradley Cooper’s penis. Either way, when he finally lets Scarlett Johansson out of her hiding place, she is absolutely furious that he had sex with his actual wife who she already knew about, and breaks up with him.
Jennifer Connelly then goes home and finds Bradley Cooper’s secret cigarettes, which she is way angrier about than his whole “I put my dick in the Black Widow” thing. When Cooper comes home, he finds all his stuff on the stairs, pre-packed, and a carton of American Spirit with a note from his wife telling him she wants a divorce. By my estimate, this means she gave forty dollars to a tobacco company (fifty-one bucks adjusted for inflation) despite her father’s death, as a way to tell Record Raccoon to fuck off.
The last we see of Bradley Cooper, he is hanging out outside ScarJo’s yoga studio, but she’s long gone. Incidentally, Scarlett Johansson plays a yoga instructor and singer who clearly can’t do either, so her only on screen yoga moment is ending a class by sitting cross legged, and a shot of her singing in the final montage is, hilariously, silent so that we can hear more of the Keane song mentioned above.
This barely qualifies as an entire plot, but ScarJo works with Drew Barrymore, who- Fuck me, Drew Barrymore is in this?!
Either way, there’s some painfully 2009 stuff about how Drew Barrymore is trying to find love online, but spends all her time checking her “blackberry,” her “e-mails”, and her “MySpace.” The whole thing has aged like fine milk, but was clearly an attempt to be modern.
Thinking about it, maybe it was somewhere past modern, as this film apparently takes place in some alternate sci-fi universe where Drew Barrymore struggles to get laid.
As a time saver: She eventually ends up with Some Asshole, the bad date/ScarJo’s pity fuck from earlier. Nobody cares. It is, however, worth noting that ScarJo briefly uses SomeAsshole as a rebound fling after Bradley Cooper, and Some Asshole tries to make it something more by offering ScarJo a house with her dream ironing board.
I’m not kidding. That actually happens and I’m not making it up. I couldn’t be that sexist even as a joke.
It doesn’t work and Some Asshole ends up with Drew Barrymore, and as a symbole of her undying love, she deletes her MySpace. In 2009. Less than twelve months before literally everyone else did that anyway.
Remember how Ben Affleck was in this? No, I know, he’s very forgettable. But Ben Affleck is in this, and he’s in a relationship with Jennifer Aniston, proving that you can only be in this film if you go on to wear spandex OR are named Jennifer.
Ben and Jen are perfectly cast as two people who aren’t professional actors. They’re best described as a Ben Affleck/Jennifer Aniston type. They’ve been together for years, but Ben Affleck doesn’t believe in marriage. Jennifer Aniston, meanwhile, is a woman and therefore her only function is to be married. It is a truth universally acknowledged, except in this case not meant satirically.
Anyway, they split up, possibly because Jennifer Aniston is insufferable. I’m not sure if I mean this in real life or what.
Single Jen then has to go to a family wedding alone. Her dress is notably shorter than the other bridesmaids, because none of them were hot off of “Friends” at the time. Or at least lukewarm and coming off the later series.
Anyway, Jennifer Aniston talks to her dad, Kris Kristofferson, who-
Fuck me, Kris Krisofferson is in this?! I mean honestly, was there blackmail involved in acquiring a cast this starry for a film this shitty?! Did the producers have naked pictures of these people? I mean sure, Drew Barrymore they did, but the rest?!
Anyway, Kris Kristofferson has a heart attack, presumably after being reminded that he’s an Army Ranger, a qualified helicopter pilot, an award winning boxer, actor, and songwriter, a god damned Rhodes scholar with a degree in English literature, and STILL ended up in this fucking film.
Tragically, Kristofferson survives to appear in more scenes, and whilst looking after her enfeebled father, Aniston is increasingly put upon by her no good family, until Ben Affleck turns up and does the dishes. This grand gesture is enough to spark a reconciliation, and Aniston admits that love is enough and they don’t need to be married.
So Ben Affleck proposes. Because he was willing to let a relationship end rather than get married, but now that he’s done the dishes, god dammit, that’s a committment.
This whole fucking movie feels like wading through molasses. It’s billed as a romantic comedy drama, but it’s not romantic, dramatic or funny. It’s the sort of film you want to be over much, much quicker than it actually is, but also keep pausing so that you can rant about how fucking terrible it is to other people. Some of the notes I couldn’t work in but which are 100% genuine include:
- 43 minutes into the film, I cracked and my note just says “Tequila.”
- “SomeAsshole gets advice from two gay mentalists who seem to advise rape.”
- “When Whatsherfuck starts to suspect Bartender likes her, she IMMEDIATELY STARTS GOOGLING WEDDING DESTINATIONS.”
- This might be Jennifer Connelly’s most depressing role, and yes, I’ve seen “Requiem For A Dream.”
As mentioned above, this film seems to hate women more than the average romcom, which is saying something, and saying even more when you remember it’s based off of a self help book for daters.
Which was based off of one line. In one episode. Of “Sex and the City.”
Maybe we should all just stop breeding.