There's a narcotic pleasure to be had in He's Just Not That Into You, a romantic not-quite-comedy that wishes so badly you would take it seriously instead. That's impossible, thanks to a combination of insulting generalizations about female desire and Scarlett Johansson's ridiculous extensions, so it's best to just ignore the relationship platitudes posing as deep insight, and slip into the haze of gorgeous apartments, sailboats and toothy, white smiles. You may have to hold your nose to get through some of it, but He's Just Not That Into You is dangerously slick and attractive enough to suck you in regardless.
It helps that the movie is crammed full of plots, which deprive the most interesting characters of necessary depth but also helps things move along at a pretty fast clip. At the heart of things is Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a real basketcase who obsesses so much over every single date she can't get a second one, despite the fact that she's way too cute to be single. Gigi goes on a great date with Conor (Kevin Connolly), but he's actually hung up on Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a busty blonde who's clearly never lacked for male attention. Gigi regales her coworkers Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly) with her boy-crazy nonsense, all while Beth freaks out over whether her longtime boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck) will ever marry her, and Janine is frantically renovating her house while completely unaware that her husband Ben (Bradley Cooper) is having an affair with-- ta da!-- Anna.
Got all that? Good. Now toss in wise barkeep Justin Long, `Drew Barrymore as a lovelorn editor at a gay men's magazine, her own personal chorus of gay male stereotypes, and a few talking head interviews with random lovelorn people taken straight out of season one of Sex and the City. It's actually not all that hard to follow, either because the cast is entirely celebrities or because the story is utterly uninterested in relationships that aren't romantic. The women are friends, but they are defined by their relationships with men-- and that's the where movie flagrantly loses touch with reality.
Except for Kevin Connolly, who's so pitiful he may as well be a lost dog, the women are the only ones who seem to even think about their relationships, and therefore the only ones stuck sounding like harpies, nuts, or hussies. It would be fine, even refreshing, to see Johansson as a character who uses men and breaks up a marriage, if other attempts at giving her personality-- making her a yoga instructor and an aspiring singer-- weren't so half-hearted and lame. And Connelly, Aniston, Goodwin and even Barrymore in her tiny role are dynamic and interesting, but each time they whine, cry, obsess over men, do lots of housework and never mention careers, feminism takes one more dejected step backwards.
Long's romantic advice, which he gives to the flighty Gigi even without realizing he's falling in love with her, is the closest the movie comes to its source material, the no-nonsense self-help book that shares the blunt title. But the pull of those old romantic cliches is strong, and after Long spends the movie explaining why nothing works the way it does in the movies, surprise! It does anyway. Every story line ends in a rush of bold gestures and grand declarations-- in short, just like every other romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You thinks it's not.
So it's not that funny, not that smart, and not that original, but the movie has a hypnotic pull regardless. Because, even though it doesn't have anything to say in the end, He's Just Not That Into You really does manage to hit on some real emotions, like the rush of a new crush or the relief of seeing someone you love at the moment you need them most. In those ways it actually is realistic, or at least more so than New in Town or any other romance we've seen since the Sex and the City movie. Neither of those movies were as good as we'd like them to be, but you've got to credit them for trying.