Everyone Has Reversals

Story Lessons, Big and Small (Warning: Spoilers!)

August 04, 2009

The Heart Wants What It Can Get

While He's Just Not That Into You may be an ensemble, the story with the most screen time -- and the one that triggers a number of other plots -- is the romance between Ginnifer Goodwin and Justin Long. Ginnifer's the over-analyser; the girl who waits for the guy who's not going to call to call. Justin's the cynic -- the brutal truthteller who delivers dating lessons to our naif, including the titular one.

Ginnifer toughens up, develops a thick skin, learns to spot a blowoff... and then mistakes many of Justin's actions for romantic attention. He lashes out at her -- hasn't she learned anything? Stop looking for signs! Ginnifer's defense: she'd rather be overly analytical as she searches for true love, than cold-hearted like he is. Cue the reversal... he's about to realize he does, in fact, love her. This time, she's going to get her man!

But here's the thing.

Not once. Not ONCE. Does Ginnifer ever ask herself (nor does anyone ask her) if she's into him. The assumption the storyline makes is that Ginnifer is into whatever guy is into her. Her dream seems to be that someone -- anyone -- will want her.

So the person we've been led to believe is our hero -- the one that needs to grow and change -- isn't Ginnifer. It's Justin. It's the dude. Oh thank God, a DUDE is here to provide character depth! 'Cause Ginnifer in all her damaged mania is adorable just as she is. Let's reward her for all those charming neuroses!

I understand that, thematically, and for the sake of romance, it must be very tempting to turn the lesson of the title on its head, and make the big reversal about that. I just don't think Ginnifer's character needed to be sacrificed to make that happen. How about, she starts to fall for him because he's so unlike the other guys... and then starts seeing signs where there are none?

Then the big moment, when he discovers she has feelings for him, might actually have been heartbreakingly romantic rather than painfully awkward.

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