— by ROB COX —
It’s hard not to like Jennifer Aniston. Her presence, along with Aaron Eckhart’s — who is likeable in his own right — help lift “Love Happens” into the realm of interesting diversion.
Granted, it’s not a diversion I’d recommend seeing in theaters, but the film has its charms nonetheless.
Eckhart stars as Burke Ryan, PhD, a widower three-years-past who writes a self-help book as a means of coping with his wife’s death. The book unexpectedly becomes a bestseller and turns Burke into a celebrity self-help maven.
As the film opens, Burke has just arrived in Seattle to conduct a self-help course. After the first lecture, he bumps into Eloise near the elevators by happenstance and then runs into her again in the hotel lobby.
Eloise is a single, young florist with a penchant for making bad decisions in her love life. She is at first unimpressed with Burke, even feigning a handicap to elude him. Burke, however, is smitten from the start, even after discovering Eloise’s ruse. After catching her rock-singer boyfriend cheating and, following another chance, decidedly hostile, encounter with Burke, she begins warming to him.
I’ve read complaints that Aniston and Eckhart lack chemistry, but, to my thinking, the problem isn’t a lack of chemistry but a lack of quality screen time between the pair. Audiences may be surprised that the true focus of “Love Happens” isn’t the relationship between Burke and Eloise. Instead, the film centers more on Burke’s personal struggle with grief, more on his self-delusion and dishonesty in dealing with that grief.
There are also a few subplots involving the group of attendees to Burke’s self-help seminar and although those are interesting, this is really Eckhart’s film. He’s a fine actor (as demonstrated in “The Dark Knight”), but the film suffers for its one-sided focus.
Though “Love Happens” presses all the right emotional buttons in all the right places, it’s difficult to create good romantic drama with just one character; for “Love Happens,” one is indeed the loneliest number.
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