A diverting rom-com with nine characters

Posted: February 06, 2009

It was a conversational thread left by someone in the writing pool of TV's Sex and the City, but soon the dating advice, "he's just not that into you" was woven into an episode of that HBO series and later embroidered into a self-help best seller.

Now, HJNTIY (do you pronounce that h-jaunty?) is repurposed once again, this time as an offbeat rom-com set in a surprisingly homogenized Baltimore.

If the typical female romantic comedy (Sleepless in Seattle, Something New) is about the heroine's search for the guy who might be the perfect fit to her jagged jigsaw piece, the typical male rom-com (Jerry Maguire, High Fidelity) is about the hero's search for fulfillment in both work and love.

Ken Kwapis' HJNTIY, perhaps the first self-help movie, is neither. The structure of his film is the daisy chain (A likes B who has a crush on C who has the hots for D, etc.). The overlapping dating and marriage vignettes helpfully translate manspeak to women - and vice-versa.

It's more diverting than not, and boasts a bounty of Jennifers and Ginnifers (Aniston, Connelly, Goodwin), Scarlett and her Johanssons and a very droll turn by Drew Barrymore, who happens to be its executive producer.

The male talent is also A-list: Ben Affleck as Aniston's live-in guy, Kevin Connolly as the real estate broker pursued by Goodwin and besotted by Johansson, and vermouth-dry Justin Long (the Mac guy on Apple ads) as the restaurateur who decodes male behavior for Goodwin. Bradley Cooper is the lawyer married to Connelly, but drawn to Johansson, a yoga teacher aspiring to be a singer/songwriter.

(Kwapis previously co-directed He Said, She Said, a similarly minded film about how men and women are differently wired and thus interpret the same event in disparate ways.)

Because the screenplay (by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein) is not about just two but nine people, HJNTIY sidesteps the rom-com's most familiar beats. Still, it's not so different from dating films of a half century ago (think The Tender Trap) that comically pointed out that goal-oriented dating for men (object: sex) was different from goal-oriented dating for women (object: relationship and marriage).

Kwapis isn't much of a visual stylist and thus relies entirely on the considerable charisma and banter of his cast. The result is Woody Allen lite, with some deft observations about how the social media designed to bring singles together are actually coming between them.


Contact film critic Carrie Rickey

at crickey@phillynews.com or 215 854-5402. Read her blog, Flickgrrl,

at http://www.philly.com/philly/

blogs/flickgrrl/

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