Love Happens isn't just an unfortunate title because of the obvious pun I'm biting my metaphorical tongue over (okay... sh*t happens! I said it!), but because it's boring and lazy, and that pretty much sums up the movie itself.
Aaron Eckhart is as bland as pudding as Burke Ryan, a psychologist who lost his wife in a tragic accident, and for some reason turned his grief into a cottage industry for other people in mourning. Even with an incredibly successful book and seminars across the country that teach people how to be "A-OK!" instead of, say, dealing with their grief Elisabeth Kübler-Ross-style, Burke is miserable. Small details that are meant to humanize him and illustrate the grief and anxiety that is inevitable after a life-changing loss feel small and clichéd. He always takes the stairs instead of the elevator. And those lemons he tells his readers to make into lemonade? He pours a little Grey Goose into his glass when no one else is around. One of the other characters even makes a point of mentioning what a teetotaler he is.
Burke meets Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) while in Seattle for a seminar; she is a somewhat kooky florist who writes obscure words behind paintings in the hotel he's staying at. Why? Who knows. She's artsy! We're led to believe that she has some sort of bohemian life because she just broke up again with another musician who cheated on her, and her friend / employee does really bad slam poetry, but Aniston's trademark quirkiness, which many could take or leave, is lukewarm at best. (Personally, I like her.) At first she's self-righteous and indignant when Burke asks her out, taking him for an out-of-town lothario looking for a little something special now that he's away from his wife. She even follows him into the men's bathroom to give him a rather scathing dressing-down where she basically tells him she hopes he loses everything dear to him etc. etc., never realizing that A. there's someone in that stall behind her, and B. Burke already has.
But somehow when he sends her a bouquet of flowers – her own flowers, to her own shop – she's won over. Why? Again, who knows. They go on a horrible date, but she relents and sees him again because he's just out of practice, darn it! But even when they finally do sort of get together, even when Burke inevitably freaks out about his dead wife and his Big Secret, and even when he gets this one guy in the audience to go to Home Depot to renew his love for the contracting business after his son died tragically on a construction site, I found it hard to care. The half-hearted subplot wherein Burke's best friend and agent Lane "F*cking" Marshall (Dan Fogler, the only person who got me even close to a giggle during the movie) tries to get him a network deal that even trickles down to weight-loss products, doeesn't even come close to adding extra tension. There were so many ways that the viewer could have been drawn into the story more, including the surprise reunion of Burke and his father-in-law, played by Martin Sheen, but none were written in any way that compelled me to care.
I don't know how it's possible to waste a semi-decent – even good --cast like this. Eckhart is the golden boy we love whether he's a smarmy tobacco exec or a two-faced freakshow hellbent on revenge, not the flat widow who tries to be romantic in a way that only male writers think women want men to be. Jennifer Aniston is likeable and funny and has made many unfortunate choices in movies. The adorable Judy Greer, who plays Eloise's employee, is always a welcome sight, but not if she's going to do really bad "feminist" poetry. Frances Conroy puts in a brief showing as Eloise's mom who is smitten with Burke, and Martin Sheen is forced to mouth platitudes about how he and his wife didn't just lose a daughter, they lost a son. And he has to share screen time with a parrot.
And then there's the slow clap. Eric D. Snider said it better than I ever could.
"Love Happens was written and directed by men who are under 40. They are not old hacks who simply don't realize audiences laugh at the Slow Clap nowadays. They are people who should have known better. What were they thinking? How could they have thought we would take this seriously? If I were to interview the director, Brandon Camp, that is the first question I would ask him. In fact, it's the only question I would ask him, because the rest of the movie isn't worth talking about."
I can't even believe that people would try to block the release of the movie because they believed the script was stolen from them. For the money, sure, although think of the humiliation.
And remember how I told you all that I cry at everything? Like, everything? Well, I am proud to say that Love Happens didn't squeeze a tear out of these ducts. There was a little tingle in my eye once, but I remained steadfast and tear-free until it was time to haul ass out of the theater.