Love Happens **½
Movie trailers can be very deceptive, can’t they? Take Love Happens for example, a film which on the basis of the trailer looked to be a very promising and charming, if somewhat unoriginal, romantic drama that would be certain to leave moviegoers with a smile on their face and a tear in their eye. However, based on lacklustre reviews and box office (the latter being particularly notable considering that star Jennifer Aniston is usually a very reliable box office draw) it seems that this promise is not reflected in the film. Isn’t it amazing what a well cut trailer and a good soundtrack can do for the image of a film. Having read numerous comments from female viewers – the key demographic for the film, not a good sign – that nothing really happens in the film, I began to believe that all the negative comments from critics for the film may well be justified for once. Thus, I went into see the film with considerably lowered expectations. Could this film signal an end to Jennifer Aniston’s seemingly unending appeal with moviegoers? Quite possibly.
When a self-help author arrives in Seattle to teach a sold-out seminar, he unexpectedly meets the one person who might finally be able to help him help himself. Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is on the precipice of a major multimedia deal, but the therapist who asks his patients to openly confront their pain is secretly unable to take his own advice. Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston) has sworn off men and decided to focus on her floral business. However, when she meets Burke at the hotel where he’s speaking, there is an instant attraction. But will two people who have met the right person at exactly the wrong time be able to give love another chance? As each struggles with the hurt of love and loss, they realize that in order to move forward, they need to let go of the past. And if they can, they’ll find that, sometimes, love happens when you least expect it.
Love Happens is a very disjointed piece of cinema. A key reason for this is the performances of its leading actors. Aaron Eckhart completely throws himself into his role, delivering a truly believable performance of a tortured soul struggling to move on with his life after the loss of the woman he loved, and in a sensational monologue at the climax of the film he is sure to bring you to tears. Jennifer Aniston, on the other hand, seems to be on cruise control for much of the film, failing to show much that resembles true emotion and thus failing to really engage us as viewers. Consequently, while the on screen relationship between the two isn’t completely devoid of chemistry, sparks are hardly flying between the two, thus making it somewhat difficult to truly care where the relationship between their characters is headed. The rest of the cast also aren’t much to speak of. Judy Greer plays the exact same best friend character she has played in countless other romcoms – although she is very amusing in the role, Dan Fogler merely gets the job done as Burke’s manager – although he at least isn’t irritating like in some of his past comic roles, and Martin Sheen is somewhat underused as the father-in-law of Burke’s deceased wife – even though he is entertaining while on screen. Despite a mixed bag in the acting department, the film isn’t all bad though. In fact, on occasions, it is actually very good. The cinematography is frequently beautiful, the storyline is honest and sincere, the messages of the film are moving and provoking, and there are several scenes that are quite excellent. It’s just a shame that the entire film cannot be of the same quality of these scenes are there is some genuinely good stuff on show here. Overall, Love Happens is a film that has distinct qualities that make it worth seeing, if only on DVD, but it is too slow paced and uneventful in places, and too lacking in the necessary emotional impact (with the exception of the climax anyway) that love just happens rather than enchants.
Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)
© BRWC 2010.
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