If I believed in guilty pleasures, I’d probably consider He’s Just Not That Into You to be right up there next to Dirty Dancing and Bulletproof. However, I don’t subscribe to the whole guilty pleasure disclaimer. I think if you like a film, you should embrace it. I understand that’s pretty rich coming from a woman whose entire podcast is built on making excuses for her vast and diverse DVD collection, but I stand by it.
I like the films I like.
For the most part, those films are not highbrow or Oscar-worthy. In fact, skimming through a list of past Best Picture winners, since the inception of the award, I own a grand total of eleven winners, two of which I have not re-upped to DVD, so I still only own them on VHS. (To be fair, On the Waterfront is difficult to find on DVD)
He’s Just Not That Into You may not survive the test of time (in fact, I’ve mentioned it to a few people, and they all responded with “I forgot that movie existed!”), but Justin Long and Ginnifer Goodwin are wretchedly adorable.
However, while this film is a fine, upstanding member of my collection, it contains one of the most putrid scenes I have ever seen. That may be a slight exaggeration, but in comparison to the rest of this joyful romp, with some admitted over-acting, this scene stands out like a buckle of polish on an otherwise decent home manicure.
Anna (Scarlett Johansson) and Mary (Drew Barrymore) are apparently BFFs, despite having little to nothing in common, including common decency and respect for other peoples’ marriages. They aimlessly wander around a pharmacy, picking up random objects and then promptly setting them down again.
Don’t get me wrong. The fact that they are drifting around a pharmacy is not what upsets me. In fact, that is the one detail in the scene I can actually get behind.
Okay, maybe I do have a “guilty pleasure.”
Wandering aimlessly arounds pharmacies.
It probably has to do with the plethora of random crap you can find at your nearby Walgreens. I mean, really. Where else can you buy nail polish, stool softener, crackers, hour-ready photos, as-seen-on-tv merch, and maxi skirts all in the same place??
Okay, shut up. Maybe it’s because they crammed ALL of that stuff into one teeny, tiny building. That’s probably it. It’s like I’m on a scavenger hunt whenever I go to pick my husband up some Dayquil.
The setting is not why I hate the scene. It doesn’t help, considering I think a setting should be intentional. There should be something about it that moves the story forward. I think this scene was meant as a throwaway and somehow got bundled up with the rest of the film.
Earlier, Anna and Mary have a conversation nearly as vapid as the pharmacy conversation, but they chitchat over the bobbing heads of pedicurists, which shows the characters are well off, and shallow enough to get mani/pedis (I have paid for two mani/pedis in my life, so I am just as shallow. Not saying people shouldn’t get mani/pedis. They can be fun and relaxing. But you have to admit, you are paying a stranger to clip, polish, and paint what are, when you get right down to it, essentially vestigial claws)
That scene’s setting had a purpose. It showed Anna and Mary as upper-middle-class white women with cash and time to burn. Done. Perfect.
Meanwhile, everyone needs to go to the pharmacy. Who knows, maybe they are killing even more time between newspaper-editing and yoga-teaching. Perhaps they are waiting for a viewing of their own version of He’s Just Not That Into You, whiling away time till they can enter the theater. Maybe one of them actually has some horrible, debilitating illness, and the other one is hanging out at the pharmacy like a true friend, while the pharmacist fills the prescription of their life-saving drugs.
Buuuut…I tend to doubt it.
Okay, the setting is blah, but not even the most blah in the film (I will say, a lame claim to fame I have is that I know EXACTLY where in L.A. that boring brick wall where Bradley Cooper and Johansson chat is located!)
The content of the womens’ conversation is not so bad either. It isn’t breath-taking or even very thought-provoking. The film’s trailer editor pulled very heavily from Barrymore’s speech, if I recall correctly, mostly because it sums up some of the trite problems peppered throughout the film. It’s a cute enough speech, despite the fact that it really doesn’t matter who actually made it, since it really isn’t character centric.
No. My problem with this scene is really far simpler than the [ridiculous] length of this essay would suggest.
The acting is atrocious.
I’ve loved Drew Barrymore probably since I could first recognize faces. She’s a bit older than me, but I watched her films when I was little, and I followed her career because her films were rather blatantly geared for my age group (Never Been Kissed and the Wedding Singer, anyone?). And while I don’t always understand why she delivers lines the way she does, I buy into it and forgive her because of her darling little lisp.
Johansson, I admit, I have liked a whole lot shorter of a time. Really only since Avengers, if I’m completely honest. She just drove me crazy. And, I remember watching her in Home Alone 3 when she was just as gawky and awkward as the rest of us poor shmucks! I’ve developed a strong appreciation for her skills. She can be a very subtle, captivating performer.
Just. Not. In. This. Scene.
Neither performed their best work in this scene. Their other scenes in this very film were so much better!!
I know what you’re thinking.
“Ari, this is some Slyvia Plath-level obsessiveness to the badness of one, insignificant, boring little scene in a silly chick flick that most people have already forgotten exists. Why did you write an entire essay about it??”
Good question, you.
Because I LIKE this movie! I watch it a lot. And this scene turns the film into that bra you own that fits perfectly and makes your tits look spectacular in the little black dress you only wear for your husband on special occasions and you’ve never, ever, ever been able to find one that fits like it without it giving you uniboob, or even worse, four-boob, and yet the underwire beneath the right cup has finally broken through and incessantly stabs you whenever you reach for more bread.
It turns this movie into sexy torture bra! An otherwise fun, comfortable, sexy film is marred by this torturous scene. A lot of times, when I watch it by myself, I choose that scene to use the toilet or to take the dog for a walk, or I have even simply fast-forwarded through it.
I think the filmmakers are trying desperately to show that Anna and Mary in this scene are just regular BFFs, but it just doesn’t come out that way. The two women each have some pretty hefty problems, and while each of them bares their soul to the other, they hardly even pull the other woman’s attention away from the lady-razors or shampoo she’s ardently admiring. Okay, maybe that is the most realistic aspect of this entire film. My best-friend Shannon and I don’t really stare rapturously into each other’s eyes while we bitch about work or love lives. We usually even interrupt the other with a cute meme about zombie puppies, but at least we’re trying to comfort the other person!
Barrymore’s speech along with Johansson’s replies, are the most cringe-worthy aspects of this scene. Mary starts listing one piece of technology after another, lamenting the loss of the good ole’ days, and she grabs her throat when she says “voicemail.” She doesn’t mime anything else, yet we couldn’t possibly understand what she means by “voice” without her demonstrating with her hands.
Then when she lists “snail mail,” Anna so helpfully supplies, “That’s regular mail…” Her delivery of that line is so weird. She recites it as though stating a fact, or answering a question posed to her, when really, I think she’s supposed to be enlightening her friend. Dan and I think she should have hit the “regular,” as in, “That just regular mail, you ding-dong!”
Thanks, Anna, but maybe you should have mimed it for us.
Someone bothered to write out this whole scene. Someone else went through the trouble of booking a pharmacy to shoot in. Extras were contacted. Cameras were placed. The director and actors showed up to film.
And yet this is what we’re left with.
Okay, after rewatching the scene four times in a row, I will say that I find myself feeling rather silly for fixating on this one scene. It’s poorly written, acted, and directed, true. But it isn’t on the level of, say, The Room. It isn’t even as painful to watch as Transformers 2. I think I’ve just been offended by it, like whenever I’m happily digging into some homemade lasagna and I inevitably find a hair…and it’s almost always my own hair, since, like I said, the lasagna was homemade.
The scene hasn’t stopped me from rewatching the film a dozen plus times. It isn’t a deal breaker for me. It just bugs me. I think I just expect more from the filmmakers. And I just hope that they learn from this, and they don’t make the same mistake again.
I’m not mad, just disappointed.