Old 10-04-2009, 01:02 PM
Brandon Camp's Love Happens

Love Happens (2009)

"Love Happens" is a film that has been taking a harsh beating from critics, which I found unusual as I was watching the first half of the film. The first half works rather well. It's not great, but it felt as though it was setting up a touching story with its characters and that it had potential to be something better than those critics had been saying. But then the second half of the movie occurred, leaving its hope for being something decent in the dust.

Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) lost his wife to a car accident three years ago and has written a book about how to deal with the pain of such a loss. While in Seattle, he holds a seminar to promote the book and to help others in his position. One day he runs into a floral arranger named Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) and doesn't exactly get off on the right foot with her, but very soon after, they end up going out together for dinner. Now Burke must juggle his commitment to the seminar with his relationship with Eloise while also dealing with his own pain from the loss of his wife.

The second half of the film is where it really begins to lose its focus. It starts off being about their relationship while he's doing this seminar, but then it continually goes back to the seminar when it should have been focusing more on the relationship. This leads to a silly scene inserted later in the film about one of the attendees coping with the death of his son by having a shopping spree at The Home Depot that feels really out of place.

When it is focusing on the relationship, the film goes out of its way to halt the development of it to concentrate on Burke dealing with his wife's death. This leads to some more particularly silly and out of place scenes such as when Burke breaks into his father-in-law's (Martin Sheen) house to steal a parrot that he promised his wife he'd release. This is followed by a scene where he tries to release it in a forest but it takes awhile before the bird finally flies off.

Because of this, the relationship never really feels like it goes anywhere or develops at all. We know they like each other, but there just aren't really any scenes that show it here. It becomes more and more annoying that they won't admit their feelings for each other. Eloise claims that she and Burke are not dating, but the audience knows that they obviously are and are just waiting for her to admit her feelings and for Burke to admit his.

It's a shame, but not at all surprising, that the film falls into clichés for the last 15 minutes or so to wrap up its story. Will the relationship between Burke and Eloise succeed? Obviously. Will Burke's father-in-law forgive him for taking the parrot? Duh. There's even a "startling" piece of information about the car accident that killed Burke's wife that can be seen coming from a mile away.

This is actually the scene that had the biggest problems in the last part of the film. If done right, this could have been a very touching and extraordinary scene, but the way it is presented here, you can see the sap oozing through the screen as Burke bears his soul before his seminar audience, even leading to a hug from his father-in-law.

As for the performances, Jennifer Aniston has never been a very good actress (if you've seen a single episode of "Friends" then you know this already) and here she just doesn't really know what to do with the material, leading to a very bland performance. However, Aaron Eckhart does a great job with his character, hitting almost all of the right notes, the exception being the sappy scene near the end. People have been complaining about their lack of chemistry, but we don't really get the chance to see it because the relationship continually goes undeveloped.

Still, it's not altogether a terrible film, just one that's not quite recommendable. The first half had the potential to tell an interesting story of a man trying to move on with his life by meeting someone new. Too bad the filmmakers didn't realize that potential, and instead, decided to ignore the special relationship that these two characters could have had by throwing in a lot of irrelevant and clichéd material. 2.5/4 stars.
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