Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart are both singulars in real life, but fall short of our ‘sexy, savvy, single’ motto in this new movie from Brandon Camp.
I’ll admit I was mildly excited about seeing Aaron Eckhart on the big screen once again. I noticed his effortless charm in the dark comedy, Thank You for Smoking. I admired him once again in The Dark Knight for his depth and versatility. Now in his latest film, Love Happens, I found myself cringing at his empty character portrayal and insincerity.
To be fair, it’s not just Eckhart’s fault. Love Happens, on the whole, falls short. The film follows a Dr. Phil-esque self-help guru, Burke Ryan (Eckhart), on the Seattle leg of his seminar tour. There, he unexpectedly meets florist Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston). The movie purposefully reveals only small insights into Eloise’s character, attempting to show that she’s the elusive type. The attempt to create a sense of indefinable mystery about Eloise fails – succeeding only in producing an underdeveloped, contradictory character. The filmmakers probably intend for Eloise to appear as a tortured soul, but the lack of insight into to her character leaves her seeming flippant and rude.
As for Burke, he’s just as tortured as she is, but his pain comes from the loss of his deceased wife, a tragedy that gives an interesting texture to his advice and book tour. Despite what he tells his audience to do in their life, he nurses his own pain with vodka cocktails, and has ignored his in-laws since her death.
After a day in Seattle, Burke sees Eloise in his hotel, and is dazzled by her good looks. He doggedly pursues her based on her attractiveness alone, until she gives in and accepts an invitation to dinner. The two suffer through an embarrassingly uncomfortable dinner date, yet somehow their relationship manages to blossom, leading to Eloise’s inexplicable (yet predictable) quest to help Burke cope with his wife’s death.
The movie drags on, clocking nearly two hours with such unnecessary sentimental tangents like Burke releasing his dead wife’s bird in the Seattle Arboretum and taking a seminar attendee on a shopping spree to Home Depot. Aniston’s character is meant to bring a fresh outlook to Burke’s bleak life, but her lack of character development leaves you wondering what exactly her motivations are to help this man who is practically a stranger.
Eckhart struggles in a role he shouldn’t have taken in the first place. Even a stellar performance couldn’t rescue this script. He can’t seem to find the right way to balance the phony, over-enthused stage character of Burke the motivational speaker, with the privately troubled conscience of a man who lost his wife.
The film failed to pull at my heartstrings, mostly because of my frustration with the strained script and predictable plot. Love Happens seemed to develop on the mantra of “seen one Jenifer Aniston romantic comedy, seen ‘em all,” with its dead-end story and miraculous conflict resolution. Hopefully, Eckhart’s next round of script shopping will procure a project for its merit, and not because it is a genre he has yet to succeed in.
Starring Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston
Directed By Brandon Camp
Written By Brandon Camp and Mark Thompson
Playing in theaters throughout Los Angeles.