Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Review: "Love Happens"
"Love Happens" manages to incorporate all the clichés of the romantic comedy genre, and hits all those for the dramatic weepie, too.
This weird and disappointing movie tries unsuccessfully to tell the story of a truly and deeply depressed man, and dress it up in the clothes of a quirky/funny romcom. So there are scenes of frivolous, spontaneous courting, followed immediately by dour bits where you think the protagonist is going to jump off a building.
There's even -- God help us -- a slow-clap scene. You know the kind I'm talking about: A large group of people responds to an emotional moment with one guy clapping slowly, which is picked up by the rest of the crowd and builds in an enthusiastic crescendo. As a cinematic device, the slow clap became hackneyed in approximately 1987.
Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is a self-help guru who goes around the country giving emotional pep talks to people about how to deal with personal loss. He's on the verge of becoming the next Dr. Phil, with a deal for a talk show, DVD distribution, radio program and the whole kabob looming.
Burke seems sincere, despite a money-hungry manager (delightfully played by Dan Fogler). After all, it was the loss of his own wife in a tragic accident three years ago that prompted him to write his best-selling book, "A-Okay!"
So, surely a run-in with a snarky flower-shop owner named Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) will brighten up his life. Eloise decorates the Seattle hotel where Burke's latest seminar is taking place -- and also surreptitiously scribbles obscure vocab words behind paintings in the hallways.
It's cute, but if someone really felt compelled to share terms like "quidnunc" with the world, why hide it?
By the way, a person who intentionally uses long, obscure words is called a sesquipedalianist, so you just know that one's going to turn up eventually.
Eloise and Burke don't exactly hit it off. In fact, she even pretends to be deaf in order to avoid his initial come-on. This leads to their next meeting, in which Burke gives her the finger. I have to give it to co-writers Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson -- you don't see too many screen couples flipping each other off.
But Camp, who also directed, just can't make sense of all the different and often conflicting things zinging around his movie. You've got Judy Greer as Eloise's slam-poet shop assistant, Martin Sheen as Burke's P.O.'d ex-Marine father-in-law, and Frances Conroy badly misused in a tiny scene as Eloise's mom.
And that's on top of the overriding incongruency of a guy who still hasn't gotten over his dead wife doing meet-cutes and falling-in-love montages to guitar-heavy music cues.
Sometimes pairing unlikely elements or characters together makes for movie magic. And sometimes "Love Happens."