Warm, predictable and mediocre "Love Happens" needs more love
Sometimes you have to move on from your past in order to achieve love again, which is the premise of the new romantic comedy “Love Happens” starring Aaron Eckhart and that familiar “Friends” Jennifer Aniston. Familiar and predictable yet well-acted, “Love Happens” is a mediocre chick flick with considerable amount of empathy and heart though the romance is secondary, and Aniston’s role is really (and surprisingly so) a supporting one. Warm but unevenly bland, “Love Happens” needs more sizzle and less tears to have it succeed as a romantic comedy gem.
Eckhart is successful self-help guru Burke Ryan whose catchphrase is “A OK” and he helps people through their grief over the loss of a loved one, since he himself lost his wife in a tragic accident a few years earlier. Along with his portly, outgoing agent named Lane (Dan Fogler), he’s on the precipice of landing a major multimedia deal that will make him the next Dr. Phil. While in Seattle for a few days in a seminar, Burke meets a florist named Eloise (Aniston), who provides the hotel’s flowers. They begin to fall for each other, until Burke realizes that he hasn’t truly dealt with or been honest about his wife’s death.
“Love Happens” is a sensitive, pleasant but bland treatment filled with pop psychology clichés; the script and direction from Brandon Camp lack focus and depth and the leads aren’t onscreen enough to produce any dazzling chemistry. As a portrayal of someone struggling to face their grief there are some compelling moments, but mixed with romantic comedy it falters under an air of familiarity. Eckhart carries the film in a poignant performance, though Aniston’s role, a woefully underwritten one, is smaller than you might think. She’s missing from large chunks of the film, including several key scenes, making the romance more difficult to develop. Though she’s little more than eye candy anyway, it takes two to develop the romance.It doesn’t help that the large supporting cast in “Love Happens” is a mixed bag. Fogler is his usual annoying self, while the always peppy Judy Greer pops in and out of a few scenes, and “Six Feet Under” actress Frances Conroy is relegated to an odd cameo as Aniston’s mother. The two more memorable supporting performances come from character actor and familiar face John Carroll Lynch (“Gran Torino”) who perfectly conveys someone struggling with bitterness and denial along with the underused Martin Sheen, seen too briefly in a sturdy performance as the confounded father-in-law begging for truth.
The romance scenes in “Love Happens” seem more like filler around the scenes in which Eckhart is trying to manage his grief, which has more heart than the romantic notions the film tries to purport. The emotional but predictable climax should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching, and all the strings seem so happily tied together that it rings a little false. One good thing about the film: it's handsomely filmed in and around Seattle, and makes good use of various locations, including the Space Needle and Pike's Fish Market."Love Happens” isn’t a terrible film by any means, just one with an identity problem that ends up mediocre and uneventful in execution.