Directed by: Brandon Camp
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler, John Carroll Lynch, Martin Sheen
Even with giving Love Happens a measly two-and-a-half stars, I feel like I’m being more than generous to this movie than my preconceived notions would’ve allowed. First off, there’s the film’s awful, utterly forgettable title (Love happens? So do dermatitis and peanut allergies), while the film’s trailer painted a picture of the worst kind of hokey, melodramatic, sentimental hogwash imaginable. And don’t get me wrong, the sentimentality is there—the world hasn’t seen such an avalanche of syrup since the 1919 Boston Molasses Disaster that killed 21 people and injured more than 150.
OK, so maybe I’m being just a smidge hyperbolic, but the schmaltz is laid on thick. However, the thing is, the movie somehow ends up being better than it has any business being. Director Brandon Camp brings more style to the movie than it deserves, which raises the question: Why couldn’t he pick a better project to start his feature career with?
The film never gets a handle on what it’s supposed to be. The setup is simple, with psychologist and self-help guru Burke (Aaron Eckhart) heading up a seminar in Seattle, the city where his wife (Michelle Harrison) died three years earlier in a car accident. Burke has made a living off these seminars, based on a book he wrote to help him cope with loss—which is fine, though I have a hard time swallowing the idea that the first thing he wrote after his wife’s death is something as hokey as, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
Nevertheless, it seems Burke still has some issues related to his wife’s death, something that causes his father-in-law (Martin Sheen) to call him a liar and a hypocrite. It also makes him too scared to ride elevators for some unknown reason, though he’ll still climb stairs to the top of the Space Needle. In any case, it’s Burke’s attempts at overcoming his past that make up the bulk of the film. Love Happens is a teary-eyed look at surviving the pains of death and learning how to live again—complete with a parrot that’s meant to symbolize freedom.
Only this isn’t all, since we also get a budding romance between Burke and a florist named Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) that gets plopped into the middle of things with some cheesy romancing and the occasional fits of screwball comedy. The problem is this part of the film doesn’t quite fit together properly; it only serves to make the movie about 20 minutes too long. In the end, it all could’ve been much worse, but that’s far from a superlative endorsement. Rated PG-13 for some language, including sexual references.