The trials of dating are humorously obvious in Ken Kwapis' film "He's Just Not That Into You." Bringing together a talented ensemble of actors and based on a book written by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, writers for "Sex and the City," the film is a multi-layered study of modern dating practices and the complications that our abundance of technology brings to relationships.
The ensemble cast includes Ginnifer Goodwin as Gigi, Jennifer Aniston as Beth, Scarlett Johansson as Anna, Jennifer Connelly as Janine, Ben Affleck as Neil, Drew Barrymore as Mary, Bradley Cooper as Ben, Kevin Connolly as Conor and Justin Long as Alex.
The simple theme of the film is that young women are taught lies about what young men mean by their behavior. This is seen in the opening scene as the narrator describes a moment on the playground when she was a child and a young boy shoves her to the ground and tells her she is made of dog-poo. Crying, she goes to her mother who explains that the reason the little boy did that is because he likes her and has a crush on her. This sets the stage for a global series of statements that women of all cultures say to each other in an attempt to understand the dating behavior of men.
What makes the film a little more interesting is that it plays with several of the struggles of modern dating behaviors and examines the morals and rituals of a variety of relationships: Men who are players and use manipulative charm to have one-night sexual encounters with women who are looking for life-long marriage; Women who try to get married men to leave their wives out of love for them; Men who want to live with their girlfriends but never marry; Women who create fantasies about men's intentions and then misunderstand their behaviors; Men who marry but then provide little love and care for their wives; and much more. Though that may sound as though the film is hopelessly cynical about the possibility of love and marriage, it is more complex than that. These relationships show that love can be found, exceptions are possible and life doesn't have to be lived in a marriage relationship to find fulfillment.
The unveiling of the sexual and relational games people play is funny, but in a sad kind of way. The fact that the writers eventually bring some "love and marriage" into the story's resolution points to the fact that even if we abandon the old-fashioned expectations of faithfulness and commitment in marriage, we nevertheless long for just that. Perhaps that is a clue to help find the way to lasting love for all of us.
1. Do you believe that morality has changed in American culture when it comes to dating behavior? Why or why not?
2. When Gigi realizes that even if love and romance is impossible she is still going to pursue it, she becomes the exception to the rule. Do you believe that message is realistic? Why or why not?
3. When Anna purposefully tries to commit adultery with a married man, she is livid when he makes love to his wife. Why do you think this is true? Why would she want him to cheat on his wife and not on her?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.