Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

My kveeny German friend S and I snuck into a screening of "He's Just Not That Into You". Hey - we weren't the only men in the cinema - although the one other man didn't look like he was there voluntarily. The movie was a little too long but a good deal more entertaining than I expected. Drew Barrymore had a small role but managed to steal the film - she's just so cute (see previous post).

It is indeed exciting that there's such a renaissance of women- (and thus, to some extent, gay-) oriented films of late. (Interestingly, gay men are highly involved in writing these chickflick scripts.) Indeed I don't think there has been anything like it since the thirties and forties.

The "chickflick" genre in the 80s/90s was restricted to romcoms and weighty "friendship" dramas (eg: "Fried Green Tomatoes", "Beaches"). Such films were sometimes great but often had predictable outcomes - girl gets the guy we knew she would get all along, friends fall out (over a man) but eventually patch up their friendship because friendship is what counts.

"He's Just Not That Into You" is not without silly and simplistic moments, and is hardly intellectually challenging. However, it is part of a complex and new genre of chickflick, which blends friendship and romance in a fresh and fun way.

Probably the most remarkable thing about this film is that there is no central character - no heroine and hero! Think for a moment how radical a departure this is for a mainstream romantic film! Instead, we get a peek into the lives of a vaguely connected network of friends and lovers. In this sense the film is somewhat in the style of Robert Altman, except that the approach is much more light-hearted and thoroughly frothy. Perhaps, though, television drama, in which there is frequently no central character, is the chief influence.

The scenes in this film are almost _entirely_ in close-up. This makes the film unashamedly women-oriented. The way this film indulges in intimate conversation is analagous to how some action films indulge in car chases and explosions. Hollywood has suddenly figured out What Women Want and realising it sells.

Having an ensemble cast allows for more unpredictable romantic outcomes without breaking totally from traditional mainstream movie narratives. Who will end up happily ever after with whom? Who will end up "single, for the time being, having a relationship with themselves?" The message of the film isn't so much "He's Just Not That Into You", but more that human interactions are complex and unpredictable and that in the twentieth century there are satisfying outcomes which include, but are not limited to, "happily ever after".

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