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A fun time at the movies

By Elvis D'Silva
February 13, 2009 11:15 IST
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In He's Just Not That Into You, the movie that opened at the top of the US box office last week, a group of famous (or certainly recognized) actors play people attempting to get lucky in love. So in that sense, the characters these people play, and the actors themselves have something in common.

With a cast that comprises names like Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Ben Affleck, we know that apart from being famous, these people have at some time or the other been unlucky in love. Because tabloids and websites and blogs tell us so and because we probably know way too much about these people (that we may never meet), and almost nothing about the people we regularly share a commute with.

Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), Beth (Aniston) and Janine (Connelly) are co-workers who are at different points on the relationship continuum. Janine has found her happy ending in the form of marriage to Ben (Bradley Cooper); Beth is in a holding pattern that is her seven-year-long relationship with Neil (Affleck) who claims to love her but has no intention of marrying her; and Gigi constantly finds herself at the starting line even though she overanalyzes every word, phrase or statement that passes between her and a date, until she thinks that all she can find are unavailable men.

Now all of this is on the surface. These are still waters, they run deep, and much is left to be resolved before the end credits can roll. Soon Neil encounters a complication in the form of Anna (Johansson), a singer he encounters at a supermarket and ends up having an affair with. Anna's confidante is Mary (Barrymore), an ad salesperson at a Baltimore newspaper who keeps having online rendezvous with a variety of men. Anna also has a go-to man friend/casual lover in Conor (Kevin Connolly), a real estate salesman who went on a date with Gigi and never called her back. So when Gigi shows up at a bar he told her he likes, she encounters Alex (Long), a guy who for some inexplicable reason takes it upon himself to bust a few myths for her about the man-woman dynamic and what a guy really means when he says certain things.

Yup, now you're beginning to get somewhat of a clearer picture of the tangled web this movie weaves as it attempts to gaily waltz us through the romantic entanglements and befuddlements of some folk from Baltimore who just happen to be exactly like the rest of us in the free world -- looking for happiness without a clear idea of what that might actually look or feel like.

Needless to say, each of the primary women learns something new about her situation. Change comes, but at different times, and when all is said and done there is a lesson to be learnt. Exactly what that lesson is, I will leave you to see for yourself.

The performances lift this essentially indefinable romantic comedy above the average. This is the type of story that might appear difficult to precis into a single sentence or paragraph and that might have actually led to the failure of writers/directors of other films like this to even get their projects made. It can't have hurt this particular project that it was based on a best-selling book (of the same name) or that fairly prominent stars decided to contribute their mega-wattage to this project.

Ms Goodwin, who leads us into this tale manages a fine balance between dizzy and likable. Though she doesn't break the mould of the moxie-laden leading lady who perseveres through what seems like the longest string of rejections ever, she doesn't sully the mould with her presence either. Affleck brings a solid charm to his small part while Cooper's performance (in possibly the most complex character in this ensemble) offers neither easy justification nor immediate vilification for his character. Johansson and Aniston seem to be playing versions of the same character we've already seem them perform as through most of their careers while Long brings a little edge to his nice-guy shtick.

All told, Not That Into You, is a fun time at the movies for those looking for a few laughs and the total absence of blood and gore.

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Elvis D'Silva