Letís play a game: pretend Iím Jennifer Anistonís agent. No more romantic comedies! Cue the cheers and applause. Thereís a reason people keep turning out for her films, they like her. When youíve got moviegoers pulling for you, theyíll stick with you no matter what. Why not take some chances and diversify your repertoire a bit? Between the trailer, the poster and the filmís title, itís obvious that Love Happens finds Aniston nestled safe and sound in her usual lady-with-love-problems role. Aaron Eckhart in full Two-Face costume couldnít even spice this one up.
Instead, Eckhart looks as pretty as ever as Burke Ryan, the author of a popular self-help book holding a grief seminar in Seattle. Burke effortlessly coaches his devoted attendees but deep down, still anguishes over his own loss.
Eloise is a simple woman living her dream running her own flower shop. In her free time she enjoys collecting particularly poignant cards people include with their bouquets and scribbling strange words like Ďquidnuncí and Ďpoppysmicí behind the paintings in the halls of the hotel in which Burke is holding his seminar. For every romantic comedy Aniston stars in, a Judy Greer plays the eccentric sidekick. In this case Greer is Marty, Eloiseís employee and friend always on hand to give useless love life advice.
In typical meet-cute fashion, Burke and Elosie wind up literally bumping into each other in the hotel hall. Iíve heard about playing hard to get, but deaf? Yes, for no reason at all, except maybe to get a cheap laugh, she plays deaf and makes Burke feel awkward. He eventually catches Eloise chatting it up with a hotel employee and gets his revenge by calling her out on her lie. Sadly, the jokeís on us and this gets the ball rolling on the tacky relationship development we know is coming.
Love Happens suffers from an identity crisis. Many are under the impression that itís a romantic comedy but itís labeled as a romantic drama. Itís almost as if writer/director Brandon Camp approached the project as if it were a rom-com, but at the last moment switched gears and gave it a more serious tone. No matter which way you approach this film, it still doesnít work.
First off, itís not funny. Camp and co-writer Mike Thompson struggle to get a laugh throughout the majority of the film. Even Dan Fogler, who plays Burkeís manager and is normally keen to provide a chuckle, comes across as dry and humorless. In the final half hour of the film, comic relief is finally provided by the filmís most engaging character, Rocky the bird. In fact, the funniest moment of the film is the final scene, which features Rocky having a laugh with Burkeís father-in-law (Martin Sheen).
Secondly, Love Happens is completely consumed by the whole grief-counseling element, so much so that it becomes a drag. A significant portion of the film is devoted to Burkeís care of one man, Walter (John Carroll Lynch), whoís having a particularly hard time letting go of his son. Yes, thereís something about Walter thatís endearing, but audiences arenít looking to shed a tear at the expense of a heart-wrenching story. Romantic movies are supposed to be heart-warming and make you choke up at the end only when the guy and girl live happily ever after.
Regardless of whether or not Burke and Eloise make it to that point, you wonít well up because their happiness is unjustified. The romantic element takes a back seat to melodrama. They go from the awkward first date to sharing their darkest secrets. There isnít even a fast-paced montage showing the progression of their relationship; youíre just expected to accept theyíve gotten to the point theyíre at. A little chemistry might have helped, but there isnít any, at least not between Aniston and Eckhart anyway.
I donít care what IMDB says; Love Happens is a romantic comedy. Itís not a good one, but itís definitely a romantic comedy. If Camp wants to insist itís a romantic drama, fine, but then itís an unintentionally humorous romantic drama. Whatever way you look at it, Love Happens doesnít work. Youíre not going to giggle, your heart wonít be warmed and ultimately, youíll leave unsatisfied.
Reviewed By: Perri Nemiroff