Hollywood’s decision to strap booster rockets to Ginnifer Goodwin and fire her at us with He’s Just Not That Into You, an Ephronized adaptation of a Sex and the City spin-off book, in which the actress is allowed to retain her presumed nickname, Gigi, and is supported in her quest for romantic success in the Baltimore bar scene by a softball team’s worth of A-list actors, suggests Tinseltown, in its collective wisdom, has decided she’s the goods. If so, fine, but why pair her up with this script, all fabricated small-talk like its title, comprised mostly of circular scenes of insecure women giving, receiving, and field-testing each other’s man-trapping advice and a director, Ken Kwapis, too taxed by a point-and-shoot assignment to improvise for Goodwin even a cursory Julia Roberts’s-hand-in-the-jewelry-box moment of manufactured transcendence?
Gigi’s bar-hopping is aided by know-it-all barman Alex (a sufficiently grownup looking Justin Long) who acts as the voice of Liz Tuccillo and Greg Behrendt’s book, guiding her with obvious, ego-deflating bromides packaged as authoritatively decoded truisms (say, if a guy doesn’t call you, that means he doesn’t like you!) while sizing her up as a possible “exception to the rules.” A noodle-thin vignette, it repeatedly hands off the film to secondary characters with tangentially-related romantic difficulties, the most high-class of which belongs to Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who is unable to immediately arm-twist an engagement ring out of rich boyfriend Neil (Ben Affleck, on hand to do little more than an extended version of Sinatra’s turn-and-grin from Around the World in 80 Days). Most of the dramatic heavy-lifting is left to Jennifer Connelly, rocking a pair of caterpillar eyebrows and a perma-glower to convey her character Janine’s darkening feelings about blank-eyed husband Ben’s (Bradley Cooper) growing hard-on for yoga-instructing floozy Anna (Scarlett Johansson), though Aniston does get to bang her own dramatic drum once or twice (nobody makes the most of a PG-13 film’s solely allowable f-word like she can).
While it thankfully takes care to avoid the bladder-exploding runtime of the Sex and the City film, He’s Just Not That Into You can’t help but approximate its unsatisfying elevation of chit-chat into a primary mode of rom-com narrative communication, a bad omen for the genre going forward. By the time Kwapis gets around to tossing in some obnoxious, When Harry Met Sally-style observations from “real people” with their own phony problems, it hardly feels different from what we’ve been watching, though it’s more of a welcome distraction than the weird, distended appearance of a (finally aging!) Drew Barrymore as a web journalist who suspiciously name-drops MySpace a lot and has nosy co-workers growing out of her shoulders at all times. Two stars awarded for a surprising and perfectly-timed walk-on by the great Luis Guzmán as a construction worker who corrects Connelly’s English.