Rom-com Review: A Somewhat In-Depth Analysis of He’s Just Not That Into You

I used to be ashamed of my love for rom-coms. Maybe it was the fact that I knew deep down how stupid some of them were, or maybe it was the crushing weight of patriarchal society making me feel inferior for enjoying anything considered “girly.” Who’s to say, really? Whatever it was that caused my embarrassment, I’ve come to see the sappy, formulaic films as intellectually stimulating and well worth the watch.

I figure there’s no better way to pay respects to the underappreciated genre than by analyzing one of the classics: He’s Just Not That Into You. Needless to say, spoilers are to come.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t seen or thought about watching the popular 2009 romantic comedy-drama until it appeared in my recommendations on Netflix recently. Before committing two hours of my life to the film, I searched for the trailer on YouTube. It included every hugely successful (white) actor under the sun, from Jennifer Aniston and Scarlett Johansson to Bradley Cooper and Ben Affleck. The trailer itself seemed good enough, but for its impressive collection of Hollywood stars alone, I knew I had to check out the movie.Hollywood, California photoThe film is one of those rom-coms that combines a bunch of different storylines into one, all connected by the universal fear (and all-too-common reality) that the person you like doesn’t reciprocate your feelings. In one of the plotlines, Ben Affleck’s character doesn’t want to marry his girlfriend of seven years, played by Jennifer Aniston, so she ends things with him. Next, Jennifer Connelly and Bradley Cooper’s characters had been happily married, until Cooper falls in love with Scarlett Johansson’s character and cheats on his wife. Finally, Ginnifer Goodwin’s character receives relationship tips from Justin Long’s character, whom she meets at the bar where he works. He explains that despite female fantasies about finding the perfect person, most people never end up happily ever after. Failing to take his advice to heart, of course, Goodwin’s character convinces herself that Long is in love with her. There are a few other storylines in the film, but these are the main ones.

After laying out the problems in the relationships, the film resolves each one in different ways. Initially, I was dreading that the movie would romanticize the cheating storyline in Cooper and Johansson’s romance. However, by the end of the film, Cooper’s secret is revealed to his wife, who subsequently demands a divorce. Both Cooper and Johansson’s characters end the movie alone, and the betrayed wife is able to move on from her troubled marriage. I was impressed that the movie did not legitimize cheating as a means of finding true love, an example other rom-coms could benefit from following. In contrast to the divorce storyline, Jennifer Aniston’s character agrees to get back together with her long-time boyfriend despite his lack of marital commitment. Then, he ends up proposing anyway. Although I wouldn’t have minded the addition of a content unwed couple, this less risky ending is just as satisfying. Another happy ending occurs for Goodwin’s character, who makes Long’s character finally realize he has feelings for her. The two then share a long-awaited kiss once he confesses.​couple string lightsI think the real success of this movie comes from its ability to mix the sad with the happy. While things don’t end well for the cheater and home-wrecker, and the betrayed wife is left to pick up the pieces of her broken marriage, the characters from other plotlines have happier endings. The film pushes the rom-com genre to be more than just a predictable formula, incorporating a variety of relationship struggles that don’t always end in a dramatic and much-anticipated kissing scene. 

I’ve seen my fair share of rom-coms with untraditional endings, many of which I love (*cough* 500 Days of Summer *cough*). While I encourage myself to watch and admire genre-bending films, I’m no longer ashamed to appreciate classic, syrupy rom-coms with perfect, uplifting conclusions. It's refreshing that He’s Just Not That Into You pushes some of the genre’s boundaries, while also giving me the happy ending I was looking for on a Saturday night at home.