Love Happens Routinely Overstates the Obvious
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2009 18 Sep
DVD Release Date: February 2, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: September 18, 2009
Rating: PG-13 (for some language including sexual references)
Run Time: 109 min.
Director: Brandon Camp
Actors: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler, John Carroll Lynch, Martin Sheen, Judy Greer, Sasha Alexander
In the same way a book shouldn't be judged by its cover, a movie probably shouldn't be judged solely by its title. But in the case of Love Happens, trust me, your gut is probably right.
And the rather vanilla moniker is fitting, really, given that it's virtually impossible to downright hate it. However, therein lies the flick's greatest weakness. While recent rom-com All About Steve is so blatantly awful that its sheer badness practically hits the audience over the head, the flick formerly known as Traveling is so utterly forgettable that you can't really remember why you didn't like it—but yet you definitely know it lacked that certain "wow" factor.
Even though they fail to generate much chemistry as co-stars (named Burke and Eloise respectively), the main problem isn't even necessarily with lead actors Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston. They're pretty enough and likeable to boot, even if their characters are as cliché as they come. Ultimately, the real struggle here is tone.
Somehow, the filmmakers couldn't decide whether to make it a sad, hard-hitting drama on dealing with loss or a cutesy rom-com where everyone ends up living happily ever after. With adequate set-up and skillful direction, I'm sure both could've been achieved. But the waffling back and forth that happens here makes for a lopsided movie that's not worth more than a rental. That is, if there isn't something better.
Still, Eckhart and Aniston do their best to sell this schlocky mess. Just like in Thank You for Smoking, well, minus the sharp, pithy commentary, Eckhart plays a smarmy sales guy profiting off something less than noble—the death of his wife.
With loads of fake charisma and a feel-good message of helping his audience feel "A-Okay!," the name of his best-selling book and motivational speaker sessions, Eckhart is a self-help guru who doesn't exactly practice what he preaches. Turns out, he's living a lie because he's got a big secret (one you can see coming from a mile away, no less) that not even his most devoted fans know. Well, until he meets Eloise, of course.
See, Burke is used to getting what he wants when he wants, and in a perfect move straight out of He's Just Not That into You, Eloise initially rejects his advances by pretending she's deaf. For reasons that are never fleshed out (I guess Eloise being pretty and fit is reason enough, huh?), Burke has to go out with her, despite that major blow to his pride. So he tracks her down, calls her out on her lame lie, and they proceed to have a very, very bad first date.
It's so unbelievably awkward that Eloise proceeds to tell him just how awful it was, and then for no logical reason, (other than to keep this haphazard story moving along, I guess) decides to give him another chance. Again, if the screenwriter had bothered to flesh out these characters and give them something, anything, in common, it would be easier to believe that "love happens" between them. But with two characters who couldn't be as different as night and day, there's really not much incentive to buy into this half-hearted love story.
Believe it or not, with the pleasing Seattle backdrop and a decent selection of music in the background, the love story is a veritable picnic to watch compared to the painful scenes where Burke attempts to help those grieving. With every by-the-numbers self-help approach on display (walking on hot coals to overcome your fear, encouragement to make lemonade out of life's lemons), what could've been a meaningful dialogue has all the emotional pathos of an infomercial, meaning you'll probably find better opportunities to see "love happen" elsewhere.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking plus a couple of characters use excessive alcohol to mask their pain.
- Language/Profanity: Far less profanity than most movies of this ilk, but there's still a handful of expletives and instances where the Lord's name is taken in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: No sex scenes, but there is some sexually charged banter in Marty's (Judy Greer) slam poetry reading.
- Violence: The car accident that led to Burke's wife's death is shown several times. The unpleasant circumstances leading up to the death of Walter's (John Carroll Lynch) son are also described rather vividly.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in St. Paul, Minn., she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog.
For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.