Living lives of loud desperation for the sake of your entertainment / enjoyment / enlightenment (a generous assessment on all three counts) are Rachel from Friends, the Mac Guy, Firestarter, Daredevil, and a dozen other familiar faces and names, all of them hell-bent on telling you that if He's Just Not That Into You, all one merely has to do is swap out that target of affection. In a weird way, it's a strategy that the film itself seems to employ: If you don't like what supposed relationship insights we have to offer up across 10 blocks of Baltimore and 130 minutes of running time, just wait -- we all change our tune to make each other happy eventually.
Since this romantic omnibus already has too many characters for its own good, let's go ahead and get their introductions out of the way real quick like. There's the desperate-to-date-and-then-some Ginnifer Goodwin, who is blown off by Kevin Connolly in favor of the company of Scarlett Johansson, and who is friends with Jennifer Connelly and Jennifer Aniston and, now, Connolly's frank pal Justin Long. (With me so far?) Connolly buys ad space in the local paper from Drew Barrymore and yet flirts with Barrymore's friend, Johansson, who is herself more interested in tempting Bradley Cooper, who is currently married to Connelly (Jennifer, not Kevin) and happens to be friends with Ben Affleck, who refuses to propose to long-time love interest Aniston, and oh, great, now I've gone all cross-eyed. Nausea and dizziness may result still, though, because regardless of their relationships, every conflict in this monotonous tragicomic romantic drama boils down to someone being unhappy because of who they either are or aren't with. He's Just Not That Into You wishes it were Love, Actually crossed with The Break-Up, but it plays more like a horror movie for the WASP set, and for all its winking knowledge on the rules and exceptions of love, it's a movie that still succumbs to obvious beats and expected character arcs, nowhere near as deep as it is wide. Laughs boil down to the gay pal name-dropping social networking sites (MySpace + modern romance = instant LOL?), profound truths come down to the proud yet half-hearted cynicism reflected in the title and broadcast constantly from the film's Puck-ish anti-Cupid (Long) to its narrating protagonist (Goodwin) and the audience beyond that, and constant asides between chapters a la the far superior When Harry Met Sally... only help bloat the running time to north of two hours, distracting furthermore from the barely there efforts of a considerable cast.
So why, for the love of all that is sacred and saccharine, am I giving this film a shrug of a recommendation? Because unlike Sex and the City or Made of Honor, to give two examples, He's Just Not That Into You doesn't advance any particular agenda of materialism or misogyny. No, this film is comparably harmless, instead of setting its sights on that most relentless of rom-com ideals: When in doubt, pop the question. I don't know whether I respect the fact that the majority of the film actually considers the thought that marriage might not be tantamount to the world's worst game of musical chairs -- take that, Bride Wars! -- and whether that would qualify as some sort of progress on Hollywood's part, or if the film ultimately compromises itself by negating those notions with a climax filled with the tidiest bows and the cleanest houses.
Nah, at the end of the day, this film feels more like a one night stand than anything else: you'll enjoy taking it home overnight, but when tomorrow comes, it's less a matter of calling it as merely recalling it. He's Just Not That Into You isn't all that cynical or all that real; if anything, it's the rule – as proudly disposable as most dates are – and very much not the exception.