No love for ‘Love Happens’

Love Happens

"Love Happens" is a tearjerker that attempts to capitalize on the romantic-comedy market as well. The story surrounds a widower who channels his pain into a self-help book, and Aaron Eckhart ("Thank You for Smoking") and Jennifer Aniston ("Friends") try to elevate this cliché-ridden script into a worthwhile film, but to no avail.

Eckhart plays Burke Ryan, a widower who writes a book called "A-Okay!" that advises people on how to cope with grief. The book includes such original gems as make lemonade out of lemons, put a smile on your face for five minutes every day and tell yourself that you’re feeling "A-Okay!" At first I thought the film was parodying the unhelpful, superfluous nature of self-help literature until it became apparent that these self-help clichés were "helping" the people in this film.

This film can’t decide whether it adheres to the romantic-comedy or romantic-drama sectors. While both are equally insipid, at least with a comedy you get a few laughs. However, the few scenes of attempted hilarity within this film fail to really amuse.
Aaron Eckhart, who was so amazing in "Thank You For Smoking," is uninspiring in this film. While he does put in a good performance, he fails to make the viewer empathize with his character. His role as "self help guru" is somewhat convincing; his ability to portray the smooth-talker, which was clearly evident in "Thank You For Smoking" is shown again in this film.

Jennifer Aniston plays the female lead and fails to connect with Eckhart. Their romance seems implausible due to the glaringly obvious fact that they have no chemistry. The one memorable scene where they exhibit chemistry is when Eckhart confronts Aniston over the fact that she pretended to be deaf when he was chatting her up.

Self-help is a major theme in this film so clichés run rampant throughout. Mass audiences that make the ‘a-okay’ symbol while cheering Eckhart on clearly demonstrates the persuasive and manipulative nature of self-help. These books promise universal fixes to entirely unique personal experiences. To suggest that one technique will work for everyone who experiences loss is trite and basically lazy. This film not only prescribes to all the usual self-help clichés but it actually portrays them as these amazing pearls of wisdom that will help you through Grief 101. One scene where they’re supposed to "overcome their fear" by walking over hot coals is particularly trite.

One hilarious example of cliché is after the big melodramatic speech by Eckhart at the end of the film, one of his self-help disciples actually starts a "slow clap." This old standby is supposed to build a crescendo of inspiration and optimism so that the film can have at least a semblance of depth.