Love Happens

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Posted September 23, 2009 in Film

Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston star in a romance where love isn’t inspired, it’s hammered flat like Khrushchev’s shoe. Three years ago, Eckhart’s wife died in a car accident. Now, he’s a talk-show circuit celebrity hosting seminars on grief. As the opening montage makes literal, he’s taken lemons and turned them in to lemonade, with a numbing dose of vodka. Of course, his eager agent Dan Fogler (good in his first grown-up role) routes his gravy train to Seattle, his dead wife’s hometown. And of course, that’s also the week that the big multimedia executives decide whether to graduate him to the next Dr. Phil. And of triple course, that’s the week he decides to go on his first date since the funeral with Aniston’s kooky florist who first fakes being a deaf-mute and then decides to help him become a better man. Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson’s script is stunningly tone-deaf itself. In their world, emotional healing comes from stunts like shopping sprees at Home Depot and releasing caged birds into the wild. (That said bird is a hot weather cockatoo and said wild is raining-at-the-time Seattle—one of the forehead-slappers that are the film’s signature.) Eckhart is one of the best under-the-radar actors in the business. Like Alec Baldwin back in the ’80s, he’s a character actor in a leading man’s body; his handsomeness is too cold to be a pin-up or a gentle romantic lead. He’s made to play politicians and salesmen, hucksters hiding something under their smile. Here, his hypocritical grief counselor should be airlifted to a better movie, one that knows it’s either a drama or a dark comedy, not an excuse for Aniston to toss her hair. If we bought their romance for a second, we could submit to the movie’s mechanics. Instead, we’re just bulldozered into dozing by a flick that’s so rote, it ends with a Rudy-style slow clap.

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