Sunday, August 22, 2010

THE SELF-HELP BOOK ON SCREEN


DIRECTED BY KEN KWAPIS
STARRING: BEN AFFLECK, JENNNIFER ANISTON, GINNIFER GOODWIN, JUSTIN LONG, JENNIFER CONNELLY, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, BRADLEY COOPER, KEVIN CONNOLLY and DREW BARRYMORE

Not to be mistaken, I wrote an earlier review which I thought complimented the film for more than its worth. I do not shout a denial with this one, there’s still ample scope for amusement, for knowing smiles with tongue-in-cheek, I most definitely still dig the role that Ben Affleck plays in this film, the role of the ideal man-for-all-occasions for he’d rise up to the same. But then again, I don’t think the film says anything more than what we already know, and that doesn’t mean I ask it to defy logic – I guess I just don’t want it to re-emphasize with an ownership claim. We’re all carpenters, they’ve made no better chair just because they’re putting it on a pedestal for everyone to see and that doesn’t mean I deprive them of their right to make the movie, I’m just a little stronger in reserving mine to like it or not.

He’s just not that into you’ is like a collection of six or maybe seven different stories that are linked together to make the film look integral than to serve any other purpose. ‘Paris Je Taime’ showed a certain subtlety in letting its episodes stay episodes, while ‘New York, I love you’ tried a little harder to push the fragments together, something characteristic of the American tendency to keep it whole than to like it in splits. This film, in turn, tries to jam-pack it and call it a picture, except there are crisscrosses and the sellotape is only too visible – it has the mischievousness of a child without the ability to remain delightful. It’s very unfortunate though, for while the film was likeable in bits and pieces, the inter-connections made it impossible to be liked so. It’s like a package deal, take it or leave it – an expensive tradeoff for precious little in return.

The characters didn’t help my purpose either. Okay, fine – a couple of them did, but not entirely. Drew Barrymore throws some jokes on herself in a sort of extended cameo as the amicable Mary, I’ve already mentioned Mr. Affleck at the top of my list. Now, I have no idea as to how they’re friends with the scorching hot, excessively understanding (or someone who thinks she is) and lesson-learning Anna (played by Scarlett Johansson, who plays mediator yet again after a successful exploit in Woody Allen’s ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ – the role is not too different either) and her wife-cheating lover Ben (Bradley Cooper, who shamelessly suits his role as well) who simply loves to play the in-out game with the both of them (you can assume the pun, for there is a devastating sequence to prove my point!). Same goes with other matchups – Alex (Justin Long) and Conor (Kevin Connolly) fit as buddies, there’s chemistry, Ben and Neil are a mismatch, as are Mary and Anna. Ultimately it’s the self-assumed rejected trio of Janine, the victim (Jennifer Connelly), Beth, the wannabe (Jennifer Aniston) and Gigi, the Quixote (Ginnifer Goodwin) that stands out.

But that does not mean ‘He’s just not that into you’ is badly cast – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. The actors are a snug fit into their roles and there’s an immense amount of potential. The fault is with the characters who do next-to-nothing to endear. We see sparkles, very brief sparkles of true impact, like that of Janine cleaning the room she just wrecked, that of Neil cawing his delight on watching Beth blossom as he asks her to marry him, of Mary as she wise-cracks at the departmental store and a sliver of Anna as she finally rejects Conor, her emotional dump. Still, the film is nothing but a fair drawing of a familiar picture, as obvious as the fact that it was co-authored by man and woman. As obvious as the fact that it’s badly titled ('How Men and Women think they know everything about each other till they're proven they're wrong or maybe not' seems too long even in abbreviations, and might not even work); as obvious as the fact that I am still on two minds about liking it. 

Mary pays a pittance to Conor, thus tying the one loose end secure because - heck, she's the one that's behind the whole thing. Look at it this way - I'd love the film if I produced it, I'd be in for a commitment. 

Or maybe not. 

Eh, I don't know.

2 comments:

arun said...

Karthik, Solid research must have gone into this. Could you tell me where could I pick these movies up?
This is for a friend of mine.

karthik purushothaman said...

I think you're talking about my films of the decade list. In that case, there's no film I mentioned here that does not have its torrents. In fact, a lot of these movies have been premiered on TV too, including 'Half Nelson'.

Thanks for the comment, by the way!