March 2, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You … or Whatever …

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“He’s just not that into you.” For desperate romantics clinging on to a relationship that’s lost all hope, it’s a painful line to hear. The movie He’s Just Not That Into You attempts to instill this very idea into your head by showing the relationship tribulations of various 30-year-olds. Based on Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo’s best-selling relationship advice book, the movie focuses on the large gender difference in perspectives regarding burgeoning relationships. Separate “chapters” of the movie focus on potential problematic issues that can arise, leaving viewers hopeful that they will acquire the goldmine of relationship advice by the end of the film.
The movie begins as the young girl Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is insulted and pushed by an abrasive little boy. Crying to her mom, Gigi is warned that when men act like total jerks, it actually means they are interested in you. (The night after seeing this movie a male friend actually admitted to me that he recently insulted a girl he thought was hot — sadly, this immature male behavior failed to shock me.) Years later, when Gigi encounters men who treat her poorly, she justifies their disinterested behavior by her mom’s prior advice.
Eventually, Gigi finds a relationship mentor in a restaurant bartender, Alex (Justin Long), who provides her with bountiful advice on her troubles interpreting the actions of the opposite sex. After nearly every guy interaction, Gigi consults Alex on how she ought to read the signals men send her. The basic message that Alex tries to ingrain in Gigi’s head is that if a guy likes you, he’ll show it somehow. So if he doesn’t call you, then he simply doesn’t want to. If it appears like he doesn’t care about you, it’s because he doesn’t. Continually, this idea — “he’s just not that into you” — is illustrated through Gigi’s desperately hopeless character; she acts as the epitome of the over-analytical woman who wrongfully misconstrues every negative male “signal”.
To my utter dismay, most of Alex’s advice lacks any deeply astute relationship breakthroughs. His suggestions are obvious, articulated in a variety of ways, yet expressing the same idea repeatedly: “He’s just not that into you.” One such example is when he elucidates how men invented the idea of a “spark”: the concept of keeping women anxious about the drama of not knowing what a guy is thinking. The spark, Alex claims, allows men to treat women poorly because men take advantage of the fact that the more they don’t call, the more women want them. While such a game-playing strategy certainly occurs, I am not convinced that the concept of a “spark” is completely non-existent. (Perhaps, like Gigi, I am too optimistic myself.)
In addition to addressing women’s relationship paranoia, the movie also deals with the way guys interpret female signals (an issue I was not expecting to be tackled). The chapter of the movie called “if a girl’s into you, she’s sleeping with you …” enumerates all the red-caution flags to detect when a girl views you as a friend and nothing more. So for any interested men out there, I would not completely black-list this movie. In fact, you may actually gain some valuable advice into the iffy terrain of relationships (a field in which arguably, anyone could use a little help in). Nevertheless, I would not recommend for a male to go sans female friend, unless he were comfortable being seen there alone by throngs of women.
Ultimately, the film stays true to its title-named mantra up until the clichéd romantic ending. Like most others in the targeted female audience, I too desired a “happy ending” to appease my innate love for romantic corniness. However, while this “happy ending” definitely satiated the audience, it also deterred viewers from the overall cautionary message it initially tried to convey. Throughout the movie, we are told to obey the rule that “he’s just not that into you”. Alex stresses that women need to remind themselves they should never view themselves as an exception to that rule. However, by the film’s end, as one could predict, we see that sometimes, he is into you. Sometimes, you are the exception.