By Sandra Kraisirideja
There was much discussion this summer about the poor box office returns of adult oriented movies like “Duplicity” and “State of Play.” Both movies had terrific casts, A-list directors and sophisticated scripts. The fact that these movies were not able to attract audiences had nothing to do with how good they were. It seemed people just didn’t want to see these stories and preferred to spend their money on big action films with familiar characters.
“Love Happens,” starring Jennifer Anniston and Aaron Eckhart, will open Friday under close scrutiny from industry insiders. Characteristics of this movie are reminiscent of “Duplicity” and “State of Play” and that will be enough to draw comparisons after its opening weekend.
If it does well then there is a chance adult oriented movies will be cut some slack. If it does poorly then it may be a long time before movies like this will be seen on the big screen.
In “Love Happens” Anniston and Eckhart share great chemistry together, which is vital in any romance. Fortunately this is not a romantic comedy, but rather a light drama. The supporting cast of Judy Greer, Dan Fogler and Martin Sheen all do their part to provide some humor to the movie.
“Love Happens” was written by Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson with Camp also serving as director. The pair worked together on the TV show “John Doe,” which aired on Fox in 2002.
The script for “Love Happens” tackles some tricky subject matter rather effectively. Eckhart plays Burke, an author and inspirational guide who helps people cope with the loss of a loved one all while ignoring his own emotional pain over the death of his wife in a car accident. Anniston’s character, Eloise, owns a flower shop and bumps into Burke at the hotel where he’s giving a seminar.
The attraction is instant, at least for Burke, and there’s some humorous exchanges between them as Burke attempts to ask Eloise out on a date. Their courtship is sweet and their physical chemistry works well. The audience wants this couple to be together.
The script avoids the cliches that could easily have been part of this story. Burke is not tormented or angry by the car accident that took his wife’s life; nor is he particularly closed off and sullen. He’s just a guy who helps people go through the grieving process and move on, even though he himself is unable to do so. Eckhart’s dashing good looks don’t overshadow the darker aspects of his character, which helps give his portrayal more depth.
Anniston avoids playing Eloise as just another free spirit who opens up the heart of an emotionally unavailable man. Another actress may have played Eloise this way, but Anniston incorporates a stronger sense of self to the role. If there is any weakness in the way her character is written its that Eloise isn’t given a reason to be in a relationship. By meeting Eloise, Burke is able to come to grips with the loss of his wife and begin rebuilding his life, but Eloise doesn’t gain the same life-altering experience. It appears the only benefit Eloise gets is a good looking guy who treats her well.
Both Eckhart and Anniston deliver solid performances yet both have done better work in other movies. In “Love Happens” they give their standard work and it may be that neither was challenged by Camp to go the extra mile and deliver something different.
“Love Happens” is a satisfying romance that pairs two competent and appealing actors who look good together. It will appeal to those who enjoy a good cry and a tender love story without a lot of seriousness. It will just need to bring in the cash to show the folks in Hollywood that these stories are still worth telling.