Love Happens, Jennifer Aniston

Kimberley French/ Universal Studios

Review in a Hurry: Love might just "happen" on the big screen, but movies don't just happen—they require a good story and well-written characters, and this mismarketed would-be rom-com about a self-help guru (Aaron Eckhart) who falls for a Seattle florist (Jennifer Aniston) only gets the equation about half-right.

The Bigger Picture: Burke Ryan (Eckhart) is a suave marketing genius with a bestselling book and several tie-in workshops that are all focused on helping people let go of grief. He's masterful at talking people into taking his course, and at forcing them to confront their demons.

The movie has its cake and eats it too here, persuading us that he's not just a slick, cynical salesman, but that his snake oil actually has real bite.

Yet deep down, in an ironic-yet-obvious twist, he is unable to come to grips with his own pain, the death of his wife. And he secretly drinks vodka while telling everyone he's a teetotaler.

Burke is a great character, and is portrayed by the perfect actor for the job; this is a touchier-feelier version of Nick Naylor from Thank You For Smoking. But there's literally nothing else to Love Happens. If a camera crew had simply followed Eckhart around Seattle without any directions, they could probably have come up with almost the same film.

During a workshop in Seattle, Burke runs into Eloise (Aniston) the hotel flower-arranger. He tries to ask her out, but she pretends to be deaf-and-dumb. Later, when he hears her talking, he gets in her face, yells at her, and flips her off. In real life, this would result in security being called. In this story, naturally, she is out on a date with him a few scenes later.

It's not that Aniston's bad in the role, but that there isn't a role for her at all. Eloise is a prop, not a person; a sounding board for Burke to hurl jokes at and ultimately cry with (and if you think that's a spoiler, you might actually like this flick a lot).

Good romantic comedies feature two strong characters who are meant to be together, but are kept apart until the finale; director-cowriter Brandon Camp (whose previous script credit was the Kevin Costner afterlife potboiler Dragonfly) gives no indication as to why these two are even compatible. Eloise is a florist who likes big words...and why, exactly, does this appeal to Burke? Mainly because she's played by Jennifer Aniston. No other reason is apparent.

Eckhart does take his shirt off a couple times, though. We know some of you were wondering.

The 180—a Second Opinion: It is a refreshing change to have a story like this that doesn't go for the cheap and easy moral of success being bad. Burke Ryan has issues, yes, and they drive him, but he isn't forced to abandon everything he is in order to get better.


Also out today: Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs

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