Love and relationships have been around since the beginning of human life. Nevertheless, love and relationships continue to be a mystery for all of us. The romantic comedy film, He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), let’s the title speak for itself about contemporary relationships for women and men. The narrative arc challenges the set of “rules” that restrain contemporary relationships from moving forward. Different relationship scenarios reveal the various types of experiences that contemporary couples tend to face. This contemporary romantic comedy uses these different scenarios to follow the guidelines that most radical romantic comedy films obey, that is, “they want to bring about the happy union of a woman and a man [and] they have to show themselves to be beyond the naivety that such uncomplicated couplings rely on” (McDonald 69).
After a strain of failed attempts at love, Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin) contemplates ideas as to why finding the “one” has become drastically chaotic in contemporary relationships. Gigi explains that the problem stems during adolescents age when women are “programmed to believe that if a guy acts like a total jerk that means he likes you.” Gigi identifies herself as a victim of this “programming” as she continues to repel the men she dates because she constantly misinterprets their interest in her. She then meets Alex (Justin Long) who helps her get rid of her obsessive behavior by presenting his perspective on the real meaning of certain signals that men give off. Gigi once again misinterprets Alex’s feelings towards her which result repel his friendship with her. However, Alex realizes he has made a mistake because he has fallen in love with Gigi. When Alex goes to win back Gigi’s love, she is resistant at first but they evidently end up together.
The relationship reveals a characteristic of contemporary radical romantic comedies that “draws analogies [from] earlier texts and enjoy its manipulation of their elements.” Gigi personality of being obsessive and reading the wrong signals seemed contradictory to Alex’s confident and smooth personality with (many) women. Nevertheless, their differences are put aside and love prevails. This radical romantic comedy “retains the traditional boy meets, loses, ad re-gets girl armature” (McDonald 70).
The love triangle that Ben (Bradley Cooper) puts himself in with his wife Janine (Jennifer Connelly) and Anna (Scarlett Johansson) adversely affects each of them. Janine is portrayed as a strict wife who detests smokers because of her father death from cancer, and thus prohibits Ben from smoking. Ben claims that Janine had threatened him to marry her or she would leave which is why he married her. Anna, who is aware that Ben is married, is determined to give it a shot at love with Ben. At first Ben is resistant but his feelings soon reciprocate, and he engages in an affair with Anna. His affair ends when Janine goes to revitalize her marriage with Ben by going to have sex with him in his office and almost catches Ben in his affair. However, Anna hides in the closet while Janine seduces Ben to have sex with her in order to save their marriage. After, Anna is disgusted with Ben and storms out the closet and vows never to see him again. Janine finds cigarettes in Ben’s pocket and asks for a divorce. Ending scenes present each of them alone in their own whereabouts. This relationship scenario is another characteristic of “the radical romantic comedy [that is] prepared to end unhappily” (McDonald 70).
Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Neil (Ben Affleck) have been dating for seven years. At first Beth is neutral about marriage but later she wants Neil to ask her to marry him. Neil on the other hand, does not believe in marriage because he believes that only “insecure” people marry and they only marry because “it’s what they are supposed to do.” After Beth becomes more concerned about the marriage issue, she tells Ben that does not want to be with him because he does not want to get married. At the end of the film, they end up getting back together and Ben asks Beth to marry him. The relationship between Beth and Neil reveal the “conservatism of the basic plot” (McDonald 69) in this case being that the ultimate solution and requirement of relationships is marriage.
The radical romantic comedies of today attempt to explain that of the various themes in relationships. The themes were the “happy marriage ending”, the “affair ending”, the “end up together ending”, and the “eventually find love ending” (which I did not go over). Each relationship provided an idea of what might happen in a particular situation. The ending themes all seemed to have a reserved ideology. For example, Ben, Anna, and Janine’s scenario implies that “this is what happens when you cheat.” Ben and Neil’s ending in marriage reveal continuation of attachment that the media has to conservatism. Gigi and Alex’s relationship raise the idea that though love is mysterious, it is still possible through change in behavior or acceptance of each other’s differences.
McDonald, Tamar Jeffers. Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre. London: Wallflower, 2007.