Love Happens is a steaming pile of mediocrity. It is so bland, that it took me ten minutes to think of a second sentence to write about it. Despite having star power that most romantic comedies can only dream of, the story falls flat on its face.
Aaron Eckhart (The Dark Knight) plays Burke, a widower. He has parlayed his grief into a career as a self-help guru who helps people survive the grieving process. He is sincerely interested in helping the people who attend his seminars, and seems genuinely touched by their stories. Seems like the perfect chap to set a gal’s heart a-flutter.
Jennifer Aniston is Eloise, a quirky florist. Hollywood dictates that all quirky ladies wear hats, and this movie is no exception. Rule of thumb: hats = zany free spirit. She has just ended a bad relationship (lipstick on a wine glass helpfully confirms that her boyfriend was misbehaving) and she provides floral arrangements for the hotel where Burke is holding his latest seminar. He catches a gander of her across the hotel foyer, and is immediately intrigued (by her hat, no doubt). When he approaches her to introduce himself, she feigns deafness. Why go to the trouble of telling someone to buzz off when you can pantomime a disability?
Naturally this is not their last encounter. Over the course of a few days, Eloise magically helps Burke realize that he has never come to terms with his own grief. Martin Sheen plays Burke’s father-in-law, who accuses Burke of being a phony and profiteering from his daughter’s death. Their relationship is the most believable in the movie, as Sheen confesses that he has felt that he lost a son as well as his daughter since her death.
In a misguided side plot, part of Burke’s healing process involves breaking into his in-laws house and taking a cockatiel that he and his late wife had owned. Apparently she had conveyed the desire to set the bird free someday. In order to move on from her death, Burke takes the bird to a remote wooded area and sets it free. This had the exact opposite effect of the cathartic release that was intended, because I was traumatized that a domesticated fancy bird had been set free to forage in the woods.
I fretted about the bird for the duration of the movie. I cared a lot more about that cockatiel than I did about any humans in the movie. Trust me, I was not the only one. Everyone was talking about it after the screening. “What was he thinking? You can’t let a fancy bird out on its own!”
In Love Happens, the likable leads are wasted, and a total lack of character development makes this movie completely unbelievable. Judy Greer can’t even salvage anything as a slam poet/floral assistant. Dan Fogler is Burke’s perpetually exasperated manager. Love Happens is directed by Brandon Camp, who wrote Dragonfly, the weep fest from 2002.
I’m not sure why the movie was titled Love Happens. Love does not happen. It’s a stretch to say that like happened. This movie couldn’t quite make up its mind what to be. Is it a drama? A comedy? A love story? I don’t know, and I don’t care. I just hope I never have to see it again.