Love Happens

Love Happens

Directed by Brandon Camp. Starring Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart, Dan Fogler, Martin Sheen, John Carroll Lynch, Judy Greer, Frances Conroy. (2009, PG-13, 107 min.)

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., Sept. 25, 2009

Love Happens? It depends on your definition of “love.” And “happens.” There isn’t much of either in this predictable, putzy drama about a self-help guru who specializes in grief counseling even though he himself has hardly recovered from his wife’s accidental death three years prior. On the cusp of signing a deal that would rocket-launch his practice – and his branding – into the Dr. Phil stratosphere, Burke (Eckhart) must first weather a weeklong seminar in Seattle, the place of his wife’s death. There, he meets Eloise (Aniston), a local florist who takes a shine to Burke. Eckhart – so blond! so square-jawed! – could have been a Fifties matinee idol, but he only pops when he’s sharpened by cunning or menace (Thank You for Smoking, In the Company of Men); here, playing a deeply literal character, he’s a soggy bore. Aniston, in the far smaller role, overplays her screen time: She can’t even read the dictionary without mannerly cocking her head and cutesying it up. It’s a distraction, but then, what isn’t in this directionless picture? Writer/director Camp (of the drip-dry Kevin Costner drama Dragonfly – similarly dead-wife-obsessed) and his co-writer Mike Thompson clumsily introduce ideas then drop them entirely, devoting the first 10 minutes to establishing Burke as more or less a functioning alcoholic, then never mentioning it again. (There’s also a subplot about the commercialization of Burke’s grief via the likes of a weight-loss powder drink that is never resolved.) The soundtrack music weirdly jars, with years-old selections from the Eels, Badly Drawn Boy, the Postal Service, and Explosions in the Sky. The band Rogue Wave – not exactly a household name – bizarrely cameos, to the supposed delight of these fortysomething singletons who have never once mentioned music, let alone an obsession with Oakland indie rockers who haven’t put out an album in two years. I suppose these are just niggling asides, but when put all together, the minor irritants become major, indicative of an overall amateurishness. The crowning incompetence? The film’s climactic “twist” (way, way telegraphed) hangs on the presumption that in our highly digitized times, no savvy reporter or fan has ever bothered to do a cursory background check on Burke, a nationally prominent motivational speaker. Please. Google happens, people – and a lot more often than love does, that’s for sure.

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