Studio: New Line
Cast: Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Kevin Connolly, Bradley Cooper, Ginniver Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Justin Long
Director: Ken Kwapis
Release Date: June 30, 2009, 11:00 am
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and brief strong language
Run Time: 02h:01m:42s
Movie Grade: B-
DVD Grade: C+
The supposedly dramatic, epiphanic insight into relationships offered by this film's title seemed a little thin when it was the premise for an episode of Sex and the City, and if nothing else, you've got to give credit to Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo for riding that pony hard. They spun a book out of the premise, but there's not much to that, either—have you seen this book? The margins are very big and the type is very large. And now it's been ginned up into a major motion picture, one that makes something like Bridget Jones's Diary look like the Citizen Kane of chick flicks.
The film presents a series of interlocking relationships among the young and well heeled in Baltimore—we get romantic vignettes and life lessons, and it's not simply the presence of Jennifer Aniston that gives this a sitcom vibe, making it feel like a misguided, feature-length episode of Friends some years down the road. Jen lives with Ben Affleck, who loves her but won't get married. Jennifer Connelly is married to Bradley Cooper; they're gentrification personified, renovating a brownstone, and while she's obsessing over whether or not he's sneaking away for the occasional cigarette, he starts sleeping with Scarlett Johansson. Blah di blah di blah di blah, everyone has a crisis, falls in or out of love, and learns a li'l something before the final credits roll.
What may be most annoying is the old-fashioned, retro image of women presented here—these girls are rapacious in their quest for the ring. Even their work is retro—Aniston and Connelly work at a Martha Stewart-inspired magazine, and butt heads over nutmeg issues. The whole movie sort of plays out like the worst of pre-feminist cinema, Doris Day with a Myspace page. The worst offender, no doubt, is the character played by Ginnifer Goodwin, who is a merry little stalker of every man who even glances at her.
The film traffics in some of the laziest cultural images, too, the stuff that borders on offensive stereotypes: we get not one, but two choruses of gay men with unique insights into breeder dating, for instance, and a couple of wizened African-American women, fat and happy. Worst of all is the hoary image of the bartender with his hard-won sociological insights into mating rituals—he's played by Justin Long, who is game, but will likely suffer from an infinite number of "I'm a Mac" jokes for the rest of his professional life.
It's not unbelievably offensive, but it is a precious little matrix, and the small pleasures are surprising ones—for instance, it's a treat to see Kris Kristofferson as Aniston's father, even if his other daughter's wedding takes on the air of a Very Special Episode. It's also a mystery as to why the film was shot in the 2.35 aspect ratio—I'm not a fan of flipper discs, but you may want to go with the pan and scan with this one, because the widescreen cinematography is so appallingly framed, underused or misunderstood. It's a movie incredibly impressed with its own shallow insights; even if you have more of a fondness for this stuff than I do, though, there's just not a lot of meat on these bones. Not much to the DVD, either—a package of five deleted scenes comes with optional commentary from director Ken Kwapis, and features Teresa Russell, rescued from the cutting room floor, wasted as Scarlett's mom.
Jon Danziger June 30, 2009, 11:00 am