Starring Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Judy Greer, Frances Conroy, Martin Sheen and Dan Fogler. Directed by Brandon Camp.
Rated M (mature themes). 109 mins.
Before the press screening started, one reviewer called to another to tell him that the media notes quoted the director as saying this romantic comedy began with the death of his mother. Which sounded rather chortlable. However, on seeing the film, we understand what he meant. Love Happens is a romantic comedy, but it is more concerned with death and grieving and continuing on with life – a context in which love happens.
For a non-American audience, the film is very American, at least in the sense that it is very emotional and not only wears its heart on its sleeve, it is about encouraging others to wear their hearts on their sleeves and to go beyond mere exhibition to communicating (loudly) one's heart. The time span of the screenplay is that of a five day seminar in Seattle on dealing with the death of a loved one.
We are introduced to Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart), a psychotherapist who has written a best-seller, A-OK, explaining how he had come to terms with the death of his wife in an accident. While he puts on the smiling media front (and his agent (Dan Fogler) is just about to score a multi-million dollar contract for radio, TV, publishing and a series of sponsored goods), he has not coped at all well with the death. He covers his refusal and subsequent phobias by working on others' problems. This is movingly dramatised (with some critical provisos about this kind of group emotional therapy) as he works with a contractor, a physically big man, still grieving the death of his 12 year old son and whose marriage and job have crashed around him. John Carroll Lynch is effective as Walter, the contractor.
He encounters, in passing, the florist who decorates the hotel, Eloise (Jennifer Aniston). She is experiencing betrayal by her boyfriend, romantic encouragement and caution from her co-worker (Judy Greer) and her mother (Frances Conroy). Eloise and Burke enjoy each other's company, are able to communicate as friends, but he is still not able to be open with her about his wife's death and makes up a glowing story about her funeral. Also in the picture is his wife's father (Martin Sheen) – Burke has been avoiding his wife's family as well.
Aaron Eckhart is a good actor and is convincing as the assured therapist whose life is far more complex than he will admit. He gives some backbone to the romance and the comedy. Jennifer Aniston does what she does best and is nicer and more sensible than in some of her recent roles. With Martin Sheen and John Carroll Lynch, there is some more emotional depth than might have been expected.
A film that can be seen without apprehension (unless one needs to come to terms with personal grief about the death of a loved one) by all adult audiences. And if you expected a final kiss fade-out, you're wrong. It is Martin Sheen talking with a parrot!!
Universal Out February 25
Universal Out February 25
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.