14 Years Later, He’s Just Not That Into You Is Still One Of The Most Painfully Relatable Rom-coms
FWIW, though, I don't think anyone should end up with anyone in this cast.
I love a good rom-com, and I have a list of them I power through whenever I want something light and cheerful — whether I'm going through my own relationship woes, on my period, or just need to relax (or all of the above). Sometimes I don't even need a reason! I'm not ashamed to admit that He's Just Not That Into You has been on my list for years. Look, I've always known it's an imperfect movie, but that doesn't stop me from watching stuff that makes me feel good. It's the same reason I eat all the cheese — it's not healthy, but it fills a temporary hole in my life a la Liz Lemon, and I've accepted that about myself.
*Anyway.* Prior to the 2003 Sex and the City episode "Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little," in which Berger tells Miranda that the guy who made a half-ass excuse not come up to her place after their date just isn't into her, women were left wracking our brains, torturing ourselves over a man's intentions amid his seemingly confusing behavior. What does he mean when he texts you but doesn't want to see you? Why did he promise a second date but failed to show up? OK, we still torture ourselves. Only now, we have a phrase that sums it all up: "He's just not into you."
The phrase was so popular that it spawned a bestselling 2004 self-help book of the same name by Sex and the City writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, who coined it. I personally gifted that book to a friend who simply wasn't getting that the man she was seeing wasn't (you guessed it!) into her. And, while they got married, they eventually divorced, throwing at least some weightiness to the book. Somehow this phenomenon of a phrase demanded a movie be made from it, and that's how we got the 2009 flick He's Just Not That Into You starring a boatload of popular stars from the mid-2000s.
When I decided to re-watch it for this assignment with a much more discerning eye, I wondered: What was it about this movie — which is admittedly corny with some major toxic characters — that I kept returning to? I think it's the same reason the phrase "he's just not into you" made its way into the zeitgeist... because it's relatable.
Yep. He's Just Not That Into You is relatable, people, and if you don't think so, you're lying! You're lying to me, to us, and most significantly, to yourself — much like Jennifer Connelly's character does in this film. Because the thing about dating and relationships is we've all been through the same sh*t. So, it's no big surprise that it helps when we see not only are we not alone in this often confusing and painful and silly journey, but it also helps when someone calls us out on our own bullsh*t, aka "he's just not into you." And that's what I felt when I watched this movie — I felt called out.
Are there cringe-worthy moments in this very white and very heteronormative flick? Yes. Are there characters that I don't like because they're absolutely garbage people? Yes (I'm looking at you, Bradley Cooper and ScarJo). But here's why He's Just Not That Into You is a lot more relatable than you might give it a credit for.
Gigi and Alex
Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) is the heart of the story. She's the girl who waits by the phone on a Saturday night for her latest crush to call. She's the girl who "shows up" at the bar where she thinks he will be. She's the girl who looks for "signs" into what a man is or isn't saying. She is the girl who finally gets so sick and tired of her own crap that she quits chasing after "bad boys" and goes on a date with a good guy. OK, maybe she ends up with seemingly reformed bad boy Alex (Justin Long) but, really, Gigi is all of us, and if you don't see that, you're lying. Do I find some of her antics annoying? Sure, I would never assume the role of a host for some guy's party, no matter how cute he was, because personally, I don't want that many strangers talking to me. But! Some women might thrive in that position and have probably done so. See? Relatable.
As for Alex, well, he's a cocky lothario who treats women like objects, but because he knows this about himself, he thinks it's OK. Who hasn't met an Alex in their life? Again, relatable. Somehow he's also the voice of reason in this movie — he introduces the phrase "he's just not into you" and advises Gigi on her disastrous dating escapades — which doesn't make a whole lot of sense given his character. I guess if he's that self-aware, then he probably feels justified.
I still don't know why Gigi falls for him; there's no big answer to that except that she initially thinks he's into her and then loves the idea of being the bad boy's "exception" to his rule, so I guess that's good enough for her? Which, I hate to say, is also relatable.
Neil and Beth
Neil (Ben Affleck) refuses to marry Beth (Jennifer Aniston) despite their being together for five years because he doesn't believe in marriage. You know, one of those guys. Beth is upset because even her little sister is getting married, and why can't she? She's waited long enough. How relatable can we get?! How many guys have you known who would love to continue playing house with their partner for years and years without going all in on commitment? A lot, right?
Naturally, Beth breaks up with Neil — only to realize that, despite his squirreliness around matrimony, he's more of a husband to her. Why? He actually shows up to wash the dishes when her father has a heart attack while her married brothers-in-law sit and watch football all day. I still don't understand why the entire family has to move into the dad's house to care for him even though he seems OK, but who cares? Neil steps up, and Beth takes him back. She doesn't need a ring.
But then Neil's like, "Nah, I change my mind and values. I'll marry you, Beth." And she does! They're going to make it, after all. Maybe. Neil likes cargo pants a little too much for Beth's tastes, and trying to break a man from that habit is like asking for the moon. Once again, relatable!
Ben, Anna, and Janine
These are the worst people in the film. Still, we've all known a Ben (Bradley Cooper), Anna (Scarlett Johansson), and Janine (Jennifer Connelly) at some point in our lives, whether we liked it or not. Hell, we've probably been a Ben, Anna, and Janine in our lives if we're going to get real about it.
Ben's married to Janine, but he's not thrilled about it. He says they only got married because they had been together for so long that it was marriage or break up, and he chose marriage over his integrity to save face. Who knows a Ben? I see your hands! Meanwhile, Janine is in denial. She's busy renovating a house and going on about how bad cigarettes are for you because she doesn't want to face the reality of her marriage — it's easier to distract yourself with hardwood floors than coming to terms with the fact you married a butthead. Who knows a Janine? Who's been a Janine? I see you.
Ben meets Anna at a grocery store. She's hot, he's unhappy, so he starts an affair with her. "I'm so into you," he tells her after they hook up. OK, so at least he's honest in that respect. Is Ben into her, though? I think Ben's into Ben not being a grown-up and facing the music. Anna knows he's married, yet doesn't care. She thinks he'll leave his wife for her.
Again, who knows an Anna? And when Ben's being hot and cold with her (is he really into her?), she fools around with Conor (Kevin Connolly, not related to Jennifer, btw) and leads him on. You know, because she needs a backup and Conor makes her feel good about herself. Again, who knows an Anna? Who's been an Anna? I know you know what I'm talking about.
Even after Ben confesses his affair, Janine wants to try to make things work because, well, we know why. We've all been a Janine in some capacity. It's ego, it's heartbreak, it's shame, etc. So she goes to have sex with him in his office, which probably wasn't the best idea. I'd opt for therapy myself but to each their own. But Anna's there, because she was also going to have sex with him in his office. Yikes. What's with Ben? Do his frosted tips make him some sort of wizard in the sack? Ben ends up sleeping with a persistent Janine (dude wants his cake and eat it too — again, relatable) while Anna hides in the closet. Ben's lost both women at this point, deservedly so.
I'm just glad that, by the end of the film, Janine divorces Ben and his frosted tips, and Anna says she needs to be by herself for a while, which I think is probably the most honest — and relatable! — line in the entire film.
Mary and Conor
OK, so these are two boring characters with boring names, but they're also relatable. We don't know much about Mary (Drew Barrymore), except she can't seem to find a decent date and is constantly befuddled with all the ways to communicate with said date — whether it's via email, phone, or MySpace (RIP). It's exhausting, she says, and while we don't have MySpace and no one likes to talk on the phone anymore, we still all get it. We're all still confused about the many modes of communication. Do we text? DM? Does watching an IG story count as contact? It is exhausting.
Then there's sad Conor, who's hung up on Anna. No one knows why since she treats him like trash, but then again, we've all seen the possibility in someone we really liked despite all the red flags. Say it with me: relatable! These two need something good in their lives — and thankfully, it seems like they found it with each other.
Is He's Just Not That Into You part of the all-time canon of great rom-coms? No. There's a lot of low-hanging fruit in the form of tired rom-com tropes that need to die already, and most of the stories are severely underdeveloped. But isn't that why we go back to these movies time and again? We understand what we're getting ourselves into, and we're OK with it. Kind of like some relationships. Relatable AF.