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Sept. 21, 2009

"Love Happens" like so many Hollywood clichés

by Mandy Xu, News and Entertainment editor
Perhaps there have been too many films that merge a romantic comedy into a drama without substance. Yet beneath mediocre layers of love story in director Brandon Camp's "Love Happens" lies heart; the actors openly and truthfully address the reality of grief. A-list actors Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston star in this cheeky, bordering unoriginal film. Despite the familiar formulaic plot, the tender Eckhart engenders the grace to carry this uplifting narrative.

The film follows self-help guru Burke Ryan (Eckhart), the man behind the motivational brand "A-Okay", throughout his stay in Seattle to speak to a sold out seminar. Although Ryan flashes dimpled smiles and radiates charisma to his audience, he still grieves for his deceased wife who died three years earlier in Seattle. Predictably, as the story progresses, Ryan meets a quirky and beautiful florist named Eloise Chandler (Aniston) by chance at the hotel where the seminar takes place. After a series of awkward encounters and dates the pair gradually warm up to each other. It quickly becomes apparent that Chandler needs to provide motivation to the successful motivational speaker.

Love Happens

(released September 18, 2009)
Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston unite in this romantic serial comedy about a self-help guru (Eckhart) finally finds someone who can help him help himself.
<i> Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures <i>
Chips Rating:
2.5 stars

User Rating:
1.5 stars Votes: 5
Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston unite in this romantic serial comedy about a self-help guru (Eckhart) finally finds someone who can help him help himself. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures


Reminiscent of Meg Ryan's "Sleepless in Seattle," the story plot is overall too colorless and bland to be anywhere near Oscar-worthy material. The standard boy-meets-girl card has been overused by Hollywood, and the audience does catch on to recycled storylines. Directors of romantic comedies seem to believe that sprinkling in a few witty characters with obscure mannerisms here and there will bring luster and novelty to the film. Case in point: Ryan's manager Lane (Don Folger) and Chandler's quirky coworker Marty (the reliable Judy Greer) try to provide comic relief and saucy lines to keep the audience chuckling. While they are engaging, these stereotypical characters are easily overlooked.

Because there is scant chemistry between the two, Aniston could have been better suited as a sisterly figure than a romantic interest. Besides that, Eckhart and Aniston delivered appealing and genuine characters. Eckhart has the charming face of a motivational speaker who appears in control. As the film advances, Eckhart's character gradually experiences the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It is during these stages that Eckhart displays raw, compelling talent as a lost and sorrowful soul. His tears, fear and anger are haunting and accurate as he suffers through the critical stages of accepting his loss. On the other hand, Aniston plays it mild and safe once again, choosing to act as the woman with a great job but a frayed romantic life. Her acting is nevertheless heartwarming.

The most enthralling scenes included the minor characters. The various people attending Ryan's "A-Okay!" seminar perfectly deliver the humorous quips, the sweet eulogies and the heart-wrenching lines. These actors captured and exhibited the emotions one feels after losing a loved one. Martin Sheen, who plays Ryan's father-in-law, is particularly clever, soliciting laughs and tears.

Overall, the various camera shots were aesthetically pleasing. In reference to the "make lemons out of lemonade" adage, shots of juicy sliced lemons seemed to pop out of the screen. Scenes of Ryan walking and giving hand slaps to people down the aisle of his seminar inject the essence of motivational seminars. Even more alluring is the many scenes that began with shots of Chandler's various bright floral arrangements. These backdrops brought vibrancy to the otherwise gray city, forming a wonderful juxtaposition.

"Love Happens," is a tale of romanticism twisted in a dull script. The dark undertones and ironic situations are not always pleasant, but happen to be worthwhile.

"Love Happens" is rated PG-13 for some language including sexual references. Now playing in theaters everywhere



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