Friday, April 2, 2010
I guess there's a romantic comedy to be made based in the grieving process, but Love Happens (2009) is not that movie. Billy Wilder almost succeeded with Avanti! about two middle-aged people going to Italy to pick up the bodies of their parents who had been carrying on an illicit affair. That one is, I suppose, your leading picking-up-a-dead-body romantic comedy.
If only Love Happens had anything that interesting happening. There's slick, and there's so completely lubricated as to have no friction whatsoever. Moreover, from the craft standpoint, at no time does the screenplay fuse its two disparate bits--Aaron Eckhart trying to learn how to mourn the loss of his wife with the tentative romance with Jennifer Aniston. Aniston is such a charismatic actor that evidently writers and directors do not feel it necessary to actually give her a character to play, so her sole personality trait is a penchant for finding big words and writing them in secret places. Seriously, that's it.
It doesn't help that Eckhart's character, a man with a successful self-help book, who cannot take his own advice seems like a pale reflection of the far brighter, quirkier and funnier character played by Jeff Daniels in The Answer Man. Nor does Eckhart's big public confession of what a fake he is strike any note of originality (See the classic Hail The Conquering Hero to see this device used effectively.)
It doesn't help that, whether through happenstance or design, men's griefs are treated as serious and dramatic, while women's griefs are light and funny. I guess it's not as big a deal to lose a man as it is to lose a woman.
Finally, there is a crippling lack of chemistry between the leads, who seem to be capable professionals who can appreciate each other's skill and work together amicably, but strike no sparks of passion. On the DVD, there is a special feature about the digital effects used in the film to make elements filmed separately appears as if they are in the same place and the same time. Unfortunately, the romance which is supposed to be at the heart of this film looks as though it, too were a digital effect.