Sunday, January 26, 2014

Love Happens (2009) [PG-13] ***-

Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is one of the walking wounded. Three years ago he lost his wife in a tragic auto accident. As part of the healing process he kept a journal, which was so admired by his friend and agent Lane (Dan Fogler), that Lane got it published. Now Burke is a celebrity self-help guru, giving A-OKAY seminars around the country, guiding others through their own healing process of letting go of a deceased loved one.

Reluctantly returning to Seattle, the city where his wife had died, Burke meets Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) the plant lady at the hotel where he's giving his seminar. Eloise has been burned by past relationships, and she is understandably suspicious of Burke's motives. But after having dinner with him, watching him in action at his seminar, and reading his book, Eloise finds herself drawn to him. What Eloise doesn't know, however, is that while Burke encourages his seminar students to be honest and open about their pain, he has not been so honest about his wife's death, either with himself, in his book, or in his seminars. And as a result, he hasn't been able to move on... he's afraid to ride in an elevator, he uses alcohol as a crutch, and he has been unable to connect with his dead wife's father (played by Martin Sheen) and mother, so they can grieve with him. Finally, Burke realizes that in order to let go of the past and his dead wife, so he can be together with Eloise in the future, he must acknowledge the lie he has been living.

This is an understated romantic drama, with little actual romance, and almost no comic relief. Eckhart and Aniston are competent actors who do the best they can with what they are given. The two main problems with the film are screenplay and direction: there isn't enough emotional intensity in the developing relationship between Burke and Eloise to make Burke's third-act breakdown believable, especially when it occurs on-stage during his seminar. This is an example of a novice writer/director (Brandon Camp) having a good concept but failing to fully develop the main characters, and provide a clear, plausible story arc. The film's message is a universal one, however; we are each human, imperfect and fallible. And when we have experience a personal tragedy, we have to find a way to forgive ourselves and move on. Otherwise we will remain crippled for the rest of our lives. Love Happens is not as good a film as two other romantic dramas about the healing process, Good Will Hunting and Bed of Roses. However, if you enjoyed those films, then you may be satisfied with Love Happens

Labels: drama, romance    
Internet Movie Database    
Metacritic 33/100    
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=38, viewers=60)    

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