Movie Review – Love Happens

October 29, 2009


This is a review I’ve done for Funkygrad:


Release Date: 29 October 2009
Genre: Romance
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Brandon Camp
Rating: 1/5

The surefire equation for romantic dramas or comedies ad nauseum reads:
(Guy x Girl) + a slew of supporting characters & knotty obstacles = Love

Unfortunately, the sheer ridiculous number of romance films hitting theatres over the past year has since rendered the genre prosaic, to say the least, seemingly to the extent of being factory-churned. Thrust a lead character in a different setting with some climactic variation and voila! You get a whole new marketable love story. It’s only a low budget getaway for Hollywood during these tough economic times, I hope?

Pardon my sardonicism, but whatever it is, our dear SDN, or Social Development Network-that’s the new name for the merged SDU-SDS (Social Development Unit-Social Development Services), if you haven’t been following the news lately-can’t possibly be complaining.

After all this year alone, we have had the sleeper box office hit 500 Days of Summer (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel)-a breath of fresh air with its reworked formula, the indie darlingPaper Heart (Michael Cera, Charlene Yi), the wonky Proposal (Sandra Bullock, Ryan Reynolds), the mediocre Ugly Truth (Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler) and He’s Just Not That Into You (Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston), even when Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Cera, Kat Dennings) remains fresh in memory.

Director Brandon Camp doubles up as co-scriptwriter in this directorial debut, which regrettably falls short due to an implausible, meandering storyline borne out of an evident attempt to make mondo déjà vu out of pre-existing, archair storylines. To make matters worse, Love Happens cannot really decide whether it should be a romantic drama or a romantic comedy. Feebly unfunny moments are peppered throughout the movie, while the shoehorn attempts to crack the audience up seem like desperate attempts to salvage the movie along the way. With a lowly 17% approval rating from movie portal Rotten Tomatoes, it certainly does not bode well for Camp’s career resumé. And, the film is barely breaking even though it only just began its international run.

This is considerably a real pity, given the star-studded cast at Camp’s beckoning. And they did turn in pretty decent individual performances too, though their blatantly insipid chemistry proved cataclysmic to the film. Acting can only take the storyline that far in the absence of the quintessential ‘spark’. Aaron Eckhart follows up his stunning supervillain turn in The Dark Night by venturing back into his Thank You for Smoking mode in a self-help guru-cum-motivational speaker role. Aniston is well, comme cicomme ça in yet another cookie-cutter role following He’s Just Not That Into You and Marley & Me. Nothing spectacular for the prolific actress, yet nothing too detrimental in a role that does not offer much room for improvisation anyway.

Eckhart is Dr. Burke Ryan, a therapist who ventured into the self-help scene following the death of his wife to seek cathartic relief. Or so it seems, as he urges his clients to let go of their past baggage and move on with life by confronting their pain head-on. Yet he does the profession no favours by being, unsurprisingly a quack, who is himself hitherto unable to heed his own advice. A case of self-indulgent narcissism, perhaps, though poor editing will be the scapegoat for the several instances where Burke’s story arc falls short.

Erstwhile, enter Eloise Chandler (Aniston), the surname certainly a mere coincidence to its Friendsnamesake. The quirky spurned bachelorette has (surprise, surprise) decided to remain a swinging single in favour of her floral business. A penchant for words also has her vandalising hotel walls with arcane, idiosyncratic words that do not feature in many a layperson’s vocabulary bank. Like “poppysmic” (the sound produced with lip-smacking) and “quidnunc” (an inquisitive and gossipy person). Whatever the reason is anybody’s guess, as Camp fails to attribute anything at all to this eccentricity.

And so the two characters have a chance love-at-first-sight meeting as Burke holds a seminar in the hotel where Eloise happens to be arranging flowers at. Yet one cannot help but ponder the reality of their attraction and all their subsequent coincidences. The story then develops in such a mawkish and predictable manner that, with its cliché moments, is foreseeable even by a mile.

Yet the fallacies behind the plot and storyline aside, a redeeming quality of the film lies in its artistic direction, where Camp manages to turn in a fair performance. The framing of his shots and the usage of foreground-background techniques are noteworthy enough a mention.

Without wanting to give away too many spoilers, look at the title as a dead giveaway for the ending the film leads up to. Love “happens”, not “happened” or “will happen”, does it not?

One Response to “Movie Review – Love Happens”

  1. CMrok93 Says:

    A glossy, meandering wallow of a film with personable stars and predictable storylines. Blandly forgettable even with Aniston at her most winsome. Still needed some more actual emotional moments, and although it’s not that terrible, I still didn’t really like it all that much. Good review, check out mine when you can!

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