Friday 1 November 2019

Movie Review: Love Happens (2009)

A superficial drama dealing with familial loss with elements of romance and light comedy, Love Happens is stuck in a vague space where dubious psychology meets inferior writing.

Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is a Ph.D. self-help guru and the author of A-Okay!, a bestseller with tips on surviving grief following the loss of a loved one. Burke's wife was killed in a car crash and his experience prompted the book. In Seattle to run a week-long workshop, he connects with his manager Lane Marshall (Dan Fogler), who is close to finalizing a lucrative multimedia marketing deal to expand Burke's brand.

During the week Burke meets hotel florist Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), who runs a local flower shop with her assistant Marty (Judy Greer). He also bumps into his father-in-law (Martin Sheen), who encourages Burke to stop lying. As Burke helps seminar attendee and former contractor Walter (John Carroll Lynch) work through the anguish of losing his son, Burke and Eloise start dating, and she starts to understand Burke himself has unresolved issues related to his wife's death.

Basing a plot on the world of self-help seminars and pop-psychology is a rickety foundation for a movie. Director Brandon Camp and his co-writer Mike Thompson appear unconcerned, and Love Happens pushes ahead with large chunks of running time dedicated to Burke Ryan leading for-profit workshops where banal truisms and trite platitudes are used to help grief-stricken relatives get on with their lives.

To make matters worse, the film is stacked from end to end with blatant product placements, none worse than a group field trip to a hardware store purportedly to help a grieving contractor reconnect with his true purpose in life. Rarely has a film been burdened with a more obviously grating embedded commercial.

Somewhere within Love Happens a romance is supposed to blossom, but Camp has difficulty bringing it to the screen. No chemistry materializes between Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart, partly due to the blankness of the Eloise character, who appears to exist for the sole process of awakening Burke to his emotional blindspot. So instead of delivering any romantic sizzle the film goes off on a ghastly tangent involving stealing a pet parrot then freeing it into the wild, which is neither funny nor profound, just dumbfounding.

For all the film's weaknesses, the worst is saved to last, a most cringy on-stage soul-baring fiasco crashing against a hackneyed plot twist telegraphed an hour earlier. Love Happens, except when it doesn't.

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