– Summary –
Director :Ken Kwapis
Cast : Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Ben Affleck, Justin Long, Scarlett Johansson, Kevin Connolly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Kris Kristofferson, Hedy Burress, Stephen Jared, Busy Phillips, Leonardo Nam, Rod Keller.
Year Of Release : 2009
Length : 120 excruciating minutes
Synopsis: Multiple storylines involving people trying to find love, falling in love, and discovering that they don’t love each other, all told in a mishmash of drama, comedy and broad chick-flick appeal.
Review : They did it so much better in Love Actually. HJNTIY is a lackluster, overwrought mix of comedy and drama that lacks true pathos and descends into generic, hollow rom-com humour, with little to set it apart from the many films of this ilk that have come before it. Kwapis has directed a kwappy film.
Dreary, convoluted and “witty” exploration of love in all it’s forms, from those looking for it, to those falling out of it. This film, based on a book which was based on a line from an episode of Sex & The City, (a more groan-inducing backstory there hasn’t been!) is a rambling, unfocused example of chick-flick emptiness, with all the coherent moral fortitude of an issue of Cosmo.
In a strange twist of fate, only one of the storylines has anything to do with the title of the film, a cumbersome entity which doesn’t engender a lot of support from a male viewing audience.
I’ll blatantly admit to despising the majority of “chick flick” films that come out of Hollywood, since they lack the one redeeming factor that makes them viewable to a critic like me: common sense. It’s nothing new to say that most chick flicks lack, a little like Star Wars, realism. They elevate the love aspect to inhuman levels of grandiosity, a purported skewering of relationships and interpersonal bantering that often borders on impossibly saccharine and invariably duplicitous. Most chick flick movies are designed to make women feel either two things: loved, or under-appreciated. More often than not, it’s the latter, due to the male star’s of these kinds of films being so overly magnanimous and appreciative of their female co-star’s charms that they all end up kowtowing to the demands of the fairer sex. realism in these films is flimsy at best, absent at worst. I admit these films are designed to appeal to the fantasy women have that their men could, in fact, act like some love-struck Hollywood star in a perfectly scripted film; that in itself doesn’t do us blokes any favors.
I mentioned at the top of this review that this kind of film was done so much better in Love Actually, perhaps one of the more polarizing chick-flicks to come out of the film industry in many a year. Love Actually, which strung a bunch of stories together that involved people falling in and out of love, both romantic and platonic, was actually quite a sweet little affair, a puffy little desert of a film which neither managed to insult my intelligence nor attempt to educate me: it’s simply the finest example of a cinematic box of chocolates I’ve seen in ages. Where HJNTIY falls flat is in it’s inability to capture the charm or zest of the same genre: it’s essentially a retread of that superior film in terms of multiple characters intertwined with each other in some way. Just done with a masochistic American slant.
First, we meet Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin), a woman who completely over-interprets the signs men give her while out on a date. When she’s given the flick by Conor (Kevin Connolly) she becomes friendly with the local bartender, Alex (Justin Long), who gives her the tips espoused in the film’s title. he instructs her, like a young Mr Miyagi, how to read the signs men are giving her, although in doing so inadvertently falls in love with Gigi himself. Conor, meanwhile, is having issues with Anna, a young struggling musician who uses him as a shoulder to cry on when her relationships go bad. Conor is in love with Anna, although the feeling is not mutual. Anna, meanwhile, has begun a relationship with music promoter Ben (Bradley Cooper), who has been married to his high-school sweetheart Janine (Jennifer Connelly) now for a number of years, and is becoming increasingly disenchanted with it all. Janine, who desperately wants her marriage to work, tries to keep the flame of love alive, which is made all the more difficult with her husband sleeping with Anna.
Then there’s Beth, who works with Gigi, who is unable to get her boyfriend of seven years to marry her. Neil (Ben Affleck) doesn’t believe in the concept, and cannot understand why they need to be married since he’s already shown commitment to her. This untenable situation leads her to break off their relationship. And lastly we have Mary (Drew Barrymore), a fellow coworker of Beth and Gigi’s, who is struggling to find herself a man, and bemoans the difficulty in doing so in this day of modern communications.
Okay, so it all sounds highly convoluted, but the main issue I have with this film is it’s inability to tell each storyline in a cohesive manner. While pretending it’s all so much sturm und drang, the plot of each narrative barely warrants half an hour of Bold & The Beautiful by comparison. The Ben/Janine story, which is perhaps the saddest of them all, and it’s a real chore to get through this bit of the film. Ben, man, why don’t you act like a man, stop sneaking about and talk to your wife about your problems? Are you worried she’s going to get all mad and stuff? She probably will, but then you wont feel like such a schmuck by acting up behind her back. Anna, the pricktease of the film, manages to ruin a marriage and destroy a friendship in both her storylines, and to be honest, I couldn’t be happier. What a muckraking little turd she is, and good luck to her! By far the storyline with the most appeal is Gigi and Alex, perhaps the central plot of the film, as they slowly find out about each other, and consequently, fall in love. Of course, what would be a movie if the course of love ran smooth, right? Then again, by the time Alex figured out what he wanted, I was so bored of the whole thing anyway.
Honestly, I was glad when this film finished. Mind sapping inanity aside, the whole premise could have been interesting, perhaps played as an indictment on male/female relationship hypocrisy, or something equally as sordid. As it is, it’s simply another romantic comedy clone, wanting desperately to espouse some new ideals and topics, and instead simply being a sleepy, lackluster couple of hours wasted in movie-love land. It’s not very comedic, and it’s barely romantic, so it completely misses it’s intended mark. You’ve seen better, and you’re better off seeing them than this.