Love Happens is not a romantic comedy, like the promo photos of Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston smooshed together might have you believe. The real focus of the film is Burke (Eckhart), a widower who's hooked on Grey Goose and his own delusion that he's "a-okay" like the title of his self-help book suggests. He's constantly quoting his own chapters, with turning-lemons-into-lemonade kind of lessons, as a means to get through his day — frankly, the guy's a downer.
The story follows Burke as he reluctantly travels to Seattle — his deceased wife's hometown — to conduct an A-Okay therapy workshop for families who have lost loved ones. He gets drenched in the rain, drinks alone, and basically mopes whenever he's not faking a smile for his book's fans. That is, until he meets Eloise (Aniston), a local florist who supplies the arrangements at his hotel.
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Burke takes an interest in Eloise and comes out of his doldrums seemingly instantly. As for Eloise, even though she wants nothing to do with him at first, she has a change of heart when Burke pushes her away. As much as I love both Eckhart and Aniston separately, their chemistry is lukewarm and you never really understand why these two are working so hard to get together.
The stronger focus of the film is Burke's grieving process. Prepare for buckets of man tears. Not only does Burke shed a few, but there are also two subplots that work them in. I enjoy seeing a sensitive guy as much as the next girl — I even got misty over one scene — but when tears happen five or so times in a nearly two-hour film, it just feels overwrought.
Not that the movie doesn’t try for laughs. Try being key. They bring in Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) to play Burke’s best bud/agent and everyone's go-to sidekick girl, Judy Greer, as Aniston’s co-worker friend. Unfortunately, the jokes fall flat, and the talented Greer, who I've always loved from Arrested Development and 13 Going on 30, is underutilized.
What I did enjoy: the soundtrack, which includes everyone from Rogue Wave to Priscilla Ahn to Postal Service. But as for the movie? It's not sure what it's trying to be. Is it a tug-at-your-heartstrings drama about a PhD overcoming his wife's tragic death? Or is it a sweet love story with the obligatory cheesy jokes? Instead, Love Happens tries to cover all the bases, gets mucked in cliches — there's actually a slow clap at the film's climax — and love never seems to quite happen. They really should reconsider that title.
Photos courtesy of Universal Pictures