Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart in Love Happens (2009)


(director/writer: Brandon Camp; screenwriter: Mike Thompson; cinematographer: Eric Edwards; editor: Dana E. Glauberman; music: Christopher Young; cast: Aaron Eckhart (Burke), Jennifer Aniston (Eloise), Dan Fogler (Lane), Judy Greer (Marty), Joe Anderson (Tyler), John Carroll Lynch (Walter), Frances Conroy (Eloise’s mom), Martin Sheen (Burke’s father-in-law), Michael Kopsa (Unicom CEO), Joe Anderson (Tyler, Rocker boyfriend); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Scott Stuber/Mike Thompson; Universal Pictures; 2009)
“Gooey, banal and manipulative rom-com-dram.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Gooey, banal and manipulative rom-com-dram directed by Brandon Camp, that plays better as a self-help infomercial for those grieving over the loss of loved ones. The directing effort results in shoddy pacing, a general unevenness in structure, and an annoying reliance on a formulaic Film 101 story line. It’s cowritten by Camp and Mike Thompson (the two previously collaborated on the following bombs– “Dragonfly” and TV’s “John Doe”).

Hotshot celebrity author Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) and his efficient agent Lane (Dan Fogler) arrive in Seattle to give a seminar workshop and to close a big money deal that will probably make him the next Dr. Phil in the self-help field. Burke is a slick, well-dressed, dude who is a motivational speaker that has the chutzpah to tell people how to deal with deaths to their loved ones. He’s written a bestseller, A-Okay!, that tells how his wife died in a car accident three years ago and he goes over all the things he did to move on in life while still fondly remembering his wife.

In the hotel Burke’s speaking at, he literally bumps into the owner of a flower shop, Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), and after a bad start they begin cautiously hanging out together as love just happens to bloom for these two flowers. Conveniently Eloise drops her rocker boyfriend for cheating on her, so now she can spend some quality time with the motivational speaker as he waits the CEO of a corporate giant to drop-in at the seminar and lay on him the promised big money deal.

Burke targets for self-help sadsack Montana building contractor Walter (John Carroll Lynch), who can’t get over the loss of his son due to an accident and reluctantly attends the workshop because of his sister.

The predictable outcome is well-telegraphed before the climax. It became so embarrassing watching such crap unfold as the romance, which is never convincing or interesting, seems to be a plot mechanism left over from a thousand other forgettable pics. The romance enables Burke to come clean about how he really mourns the death of his wife, and thereby be easily forgiven for his lies that come with a shameless mea culpa. The other badly written scenes have Walter go from a basket case grieving father to a healed person who is ready to go back to work and put his life back together just because Burke gave him some attention. By the end everything is wrapped up A-Okay! for everybody concerned, like one of those old-fashioned revival meetings where cripples throw away their crutches and walk again.

The supposedly free-spirited character Aniston plays is undeveloped and is strangely more conservative than an actual conservative. It was not possible for me to see how she could fall for the oily character Eckhart plays unless she was also oily (which was not the film’s intention). That Eckhart’s manipulative career-driven corporate character, that suddenly matures in Seattle, is the hero of this love story, is just another sad commentary on this disappointing pic and how superficial it is. Martin Sheen appears in a small role as the estranged father-in-law of Eckhart and tries to bring off some comedy with a parrot, but that’s for the birds just like everything else in the pic.