One of the dirty little secrets of film critique is that sometimes the hardest part of writing a review is finding something to say. Sometimes the movie is so superfluous, so mediocre, so obviously destined for obscurity that, really, why should you care what I have to say about it?
Such is my difficulty in writing this review for “Love Happens” a colorless, ordinary story about love and loss in Seattle. Burke (Aaron Eckhart) is a lovelorn self-help guru who’s made a killing helping people through their grief and created a motivational brand terribly named “A-Okay!”
Of course, Burke could use some help of his own in dealing with the sudden death of his wife three years ago, which he’s never recovered from. Cue Eloise, the vibrant, “quirky” florist who fills her world with flowers and a funky turquoise van to administer off-beat healing. And, of course, cue their friends: a shlubby manager for Burke (Dan Fogler) and a beat poet radical feminist for Eloise (poor Judy Greer, who’s always the funky friend and deserves so much better).
Written by: Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Martin Sheen
Runtime: 109 minutes
“Love Happens” seems like a relic in this day and age — a copycat of “Sleepless in Seattle” and other Meg Ryan atrocities. The plot, the characters, the very aura of this movie is so musty and overused that it seems silly even thinking about it beyond the original viewing.
But really, what is really disconcerting is that the people who have to say the lines are so good. In the hands of a better director, Eckhart and Aniston would make a terrific romantic duo. They have the same kind of likability; the same kind of down-to-earth prettiness that makes me believe they could really be attracted to each other. It doesn’t hurt either that Camp didn’t pair Eckhart with some 22-year-old ingƒ©nue, as directors are so wont to do these days, but rather with a gorgeous a woman his own age. But neither Eckhart nor Aniston can move beyond the banality of the plot and completely unimaginative film-making.
The one aspect of this film that works is its depiction of how people experience grief. At one point an elderly admirer tells Burke that his advice to remember her dead husband’s likes and dislikes was very helpful to her. “So say hello to my Stanley!” she says brightly, opening an urn, which has been filled with oatmeal cookies made out of her dead husband’s ashes. “They were his favorite!”
Yes, it’s gross, and it’s weird. But isn’t that what grief is? There is no “right” way to deal with grief, only your way. The point is that it needs to be dealt with. In many ways, this woman’s unholy baking is healthier than Burke’s constant denial.
The other bright spot is Martin Sheen, who thankfully appears as Burke’s father-in-law. Sheen can make reading out of the phone book captivating, and he imbues his tiny role with blustery sweetness and good humor. In fact he’s the last person we see in the film; it seems even Camp knew how to exit this dour redundancy with at least one thing to talk about.