Love Happens

Posted on February 2, 2010 at 8:10 am

Pay attention, class. Jennifer Aniston makes two kinds of movies. When she has her hair tied back, it’s usually an independent film (like last summer’s “Management”) and usually worth watching. But when her hair is loose it’s usually a big, glossy, studio film like this one. She tends to hide behind her hair in these films, flipping it around or holding her head to keep it still instead of acting. And it hasn’t been working out that well for her. Other than the ensemble film “He’s Just Not That Into You,” and the movie about the dog, “Marley & Me,” she has not been very successful at the box office lately. And this charmless, predictable, and downright dull unromantic romance is another big dud. I’d call it manipulative, too, except that it never came close to manipulating any emotions in me. It’s a romance without an ounce of chemistry between its leads or between its story and its audience.
Aaron Eckhart plays Burke, a successful self-help author and motivational speaker about to sign a huge multi-media deal. He specializes in helping people deal with tragic losses, inspired by his own struggle to deal with his wife’s death in a car crash three years earlier. But like two other self-help authors in movies within the last couple of months (Kevin Spacey in “Shrink” and in Jeff Daniels in “Answer Man”), he is better at giving advice than taking it. Burke has been using his work, the book and seminars, to insulate him from his pain instead of dealing with it.
At a Hilton in Seattle, he (literally) bumps into a florist named Eloise (Aniston). For the first time since his wife’s death, he feels something. She has just broken up with an unfaithful boyfriend and has no interest in feeling anything. He likes her because (I’m not kidding about this) she writes obscure words on the wall of the hotel behind paintings. She tries to dissuade him from his interest by (and I’m really not kidding about this) pretending to be deaf. Defacing property, exploiting a non-existent disability, and making money from the pain of ordinary people. They are meant for each other!
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Even Aniston cannot make the antics forced on her by this screenplay look adorable — including a parrot-stealing adventure that is, like everything else in the film, poorly paced and over-long. Eckart’s best moment is early in the film when a photographer asks him a question and a range of emotions flicker across his face, giving us a glimpse of how much more he has to offer than this film allows. The delectable Judy Geer, go-to best friend in studio romance films, featuring actresses named Jennifer or who look like they should be named Jennifer is as usual criminally underused. And I don’t even want to tell you how mistreated poor Martin Sheen is. Worst of all is the screenplay. There is a lot to be said about the way that self-help gurus are this generation’s Elmer Gantrys, but this movie’s decision to try to have it all ways leaves the story without any point of view, forcing the characters to behave in completely inconsistent ways just for a preposterous “feel-good” resolution.
At one point in this film, a minor character in great pain from a devastating loss begins his recovery with a trip to a hardware store. We expect that this will lead to some building project with a positive impact that will help him and the other people in the group work on something constructive and generous. But it turns out to be just a shopping trip, a lot of money and a lot of building materials for nothing. The same can be said of the movie.


Parents should know that this film has brief strong language, brief crude sexual references, many references to sad losses and tragic deaths, and non-explicit fatal car crash.
Family discussion: What makes motivational speakers successful? What was the most important lesson Blake taught his audience?
If you like this, try: Neil Simon’s comedy based on his own experience of dating after his wife’s death, “Chapter Two,” and also “Notting Hill” and “When Harry Met Sally”

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5 Replies to “Love Happens”

  1. Very interesting review, Nell. Don’t know if you have read my review of “Love Happens,” but it’s almost the exact opposite of your views. To call the movie “charmless” is almost inconceivable to me, but that’s what I love about us critics. As always, I love reading your assessments each week!

  2. I did read your excellent review, Dustin! I think we liked and didn’t like many of the same things, but for me, the didn’t likes so completely outweighed the movie’s few pleasures that it made it a real disappointment.

  3. Comedy became main source to entertainment audience. But last few months there was not good comedy genre movie for me. I was absolutely let down about films. Thank to Brandon Camp I could watch true romantic comedy genre love happens movie. Omg, Jennifer Aniston also there. I love that simple lovely character lot. We should give special credits for Jennifer’s that lovely character. Is it good guys?

  4. I gave this one a chance because I really enjoy Aaron Eckhart’s work, and I was disappointed. It sort of reminded me of Elizabethtown, one of my favorite movies, which was sort of a “chick flick” (as much as I hate that term) for men that dealt with loss. (It actually used a song that was used in Elizabethtown, too.) The title for this film wasn’t accurate at all; neither was the marketing. The title really should be something like “Loss Happens And You Get Over It.”
    It should be said that while my stepfather teared up some, my mom and I sat there dry-eyed. Some parts of the film were either heavy-handed (he’s releasing the bird into the wild! What original symbolism!) or far too over-the-top and offensive (the mourner with the cookie jar). It really showed that it was written by two men, especially the Home Depot scene. It was as if the screenwriters wanted to scream, “Look! We can show our range and write a woman character as a florist, but we must assert our masculinity and include a hardware store!”

  5. You are so right, Tracy! Thanks for a great comment. It was infuriating the way the end of the movie essentially told us that most of what we had been told all along did not apply any more. A particular character had a complete change of heart that was unjustified and unbelievable. The final reveal was at the same time both predictable and logically and forensically impossible. And the methods for helping people deal with their loss were unforgivably insensitive and unhelpful. I’m sorry you saw it, but very glad you helped me show readers why they should not buy a ticket.

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