Like so many avid readers, I cringe a little when a favorite book is made into movie. When I heard that He’s Just Not That Into You was going Hollywood, I cringed more than usual – I was actually a little terrified. But I dutifully bought my tickets and waited on line to watch the movie on opening night with some girlfriends after which I realized I had been out of line cringing prior to the movie’s release. Vomiting would have been more appropriate.
The movie centers around Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), an innocent and adorable 20-something who is clearly deficient when it comes to the male gender and dating in general. The other women and men in her life get wrapped up into the mess and soon we’re learning about all of their messy relationships. In Baltimore, the "almost to DC" stop on the Acela, we are taken on a little trip through the 2-exciting-dimensions of our main characters.
Gigi, Beth, and Janine (Goodwin, Jennifer Aniston, and Jennifer Connelly) work in the same office. What they do is of no importance, as we hear nothing about it except that it has something to do with nutmeg. The only excitement in the office is about men, the only conversations about men, and the only reason these women have to interact is about men. To call them "friends" grossly overstates their relationships with one another, but they are as close as this move comes to demonstrating that women sometimes want to hang out... but again, only to talk about men.
This is symptomatic of a larger issue I take with the movie – these women have nothing – nothing – going on in their lives. They don’t have hobbies, pals, exercise routines. Most don’t even have families, except in one case where the parents are used as a convenient path to get the man back into her life. Thank god for those men. These women simply don’t exist without them.
Granted, it’s a romantic comedy (or at least bills itself as such) so that there is a heavy focus on men isn’t a surprise, but the movie makers rested too heavily on the popularity of the book and the gullibility of women to shill HJNTIY. They give audiences no reason to be engaged in the characters, no reason to care if Craz... sorry, Gigi ever gets her man, except to prove the love rules of a comedian from the late 90s.
I was personally insulted that the producers, directors, and writers assumed that there is simply nothing else these women could do with their lives (read a book, maybe, go for a run, head to a museum) and that audiences would buy that. I was depressed to find out that the audience in my theater was exactly that demographic – they gasped when love came through, when exceptions to rules were made and marriage vows promised. They laughed at the jokes of "women" behavior – hair clogs in the drain, sweeping up their own angsty messes, blow-drying their hair. Oh the hilarity!
At the end of the day, the movie exists to make money, and I get that. But to make movie based on a self-help book, one would assume that the movie shares the goal of the book – to help women wise up to the silliness of some stereotypical behavior. I was actually a big fan of He’s Just Not That Into You because it pressed women to stop obsessing about men. He’ll let you know if he’s interested, if he’s not, don’t sweat it. I can get on board with that message.
The movie fails impress that logic into audiences. These women constantly obsess about men and dating, regardless of the irrationality of it. They openly make fools of themselves and justify it with "at least I still have hope" or some such nonsense. They break every rule laid out in this fairly reasonable book, but it’s ok because love prevails. Who cares if that love had to be ripped out of the man’s clenched, unyielding fists? He’s totally into you... or will be if you just try a little harder.