LOS ANGELES — Attention single, heterosexual men: If you went on a date with Drew Barrymore, you'd probably call her back, right?
OK, it's not really a serious question.
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"Oh yeah, totally," said Barrymore, one of the stars and an executive producer of He's Just Not That Into You, director Ken Kwapis' new romantic dramedy, which opens Friday. "I've drunk at the fountain of rejection many times. I was even broken up with by the same guy twice. I was beside myself. I was a mess my friends had to clean up. Of course, it was easier the second time."
In other words, rejection is a universal experience. Still, the viewer wants to conclude that He's Just Not That Into You is pure fiction — given the romantic intrigue that unfolds around a bevy of Hollywood's most e_SDHpbeautiful women, who have inexplicable difficulty getting their love lives together. Barrymore. Jennifer Connelly. Jennifer Aniston. Ginnifer Goodwin. Scarlett Johansson. They can't find a man to love them — the right man, at any rate. If they can't get it together, what hope is there for the rest of us?
"They're very attractive women, absolutely," Barrymore said. "Heck, I'd date 'em." But she cautioned that what the movie really is about is fresh starts, new beginnings, the difficulty everyone has maintaining a relationship. "It's not a romantic comedy."
"I think it kind of thinks of itself as a romantic comedy, and it actually starts as a man-hater movie," says Kevin Connolly, whose character, Conor, is in love with Johansson, dates Goodwin (but doesn't call her) and represents men's indefatigable ability to overlook the obvious. "But in the end, I think the guys come out looking pretty good. Ben Affleck certainly comes up smelling like roses. Ultimately, I think it's pretty equal on how it treats the sexes."
"I don't like that term, 'man-hater,'" said Barrymore who has just directed her first film, Whip It! "Or 'chick flick' either. There are two sexes. The movie might be a bit more female-driven, but it's about couples. I hope men will see it, too."
They might learn something.
"Wouldn't we all?"
Let's look at the evidence: Gigi (Goodwin) is needy enough to scare anyone off, which is what she does to Conor (and several others). But Conor's already in love with Anna (Johansson), who thinks she has found her soul mate in Ben (Bradley Cooper), who is, inconveniently, married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly). Janine and Gigi work at a spice marketing company with Beth (Jennifer Aniston), who has a terrific relationship with Neil (Affleck), except that Neil is allergic to marriage. With Beth's sister preparing to tie the knot, Beth goes into the Defcon 3 of matrimonial wish- fulfillment. Meanwhile, Mary (Barrymore), who gives plenty of advice to others, is languishing in a virtual romantic limbo of e-mails, voice mails, MySpace and Facebook.
In short, a mess.
Based on the book by Sex and the City writers Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, He's Just Not That Into You forces the viewer to make vicarious choices — would you give up Connelly for Johansson? But it also shines a hot white light on the modern desperation/anxiety of love, what love means, what it costs, what it entails and how you get in and out of it — and how the sexes look at it differently.
"It definitely makes for interesting conversation," Connolly said about the cast's on-set discussions. "My feeling is that women by nature tend to overanalyze — as in, 'he didn't call me; he didn't call me soon enough; he called me too soon.' "My fear is that after this movie, I'm going to start overanalyzing. I mean, ignorance used to be bliss. Now it'll be, 'I sent the text message at 9:32. Why didn't she respond till 10:41?'"
But Barrymore said a lot of what the characters go through has to do with "rules" and how they're perceived.
"I don't think there are any rules," she said.
"A girl can call a guy. Jennifer Aniston's character goes through an interesting journey, like many women who battle societal pressures about what life should be without figuring out what's best for them. Gigi is a Labrador who'll fall on her face for love, but she ultimately finds someone who loves her for herself, so she's rewarded for being a romantic. My character ends up finding someone great. Others acquire insight.
"So I think it's very hopeful in the end."