Aaron Eckhart's (The Dark KnightBurke Ryan wrote the best seller A-Okay to ease the pain of the death of his beloved wife three years before. He gives seminars to help others unable to deal with the loss of a loved one.
Love Happensis about grief. Not love. It gets tossed into the plot as a catalyst for the grief guru to finally deal with his. Jennifer Aniston is added as a love interest to fill seats with chick flick fans fooled by the title into thinking it is a love story. Ryan reaches out to a floral shop owner played by Aniston. She becomes the catalyst for Ryan's much-needed catharsis.
Love Happens works on most levels and isn't a total bomb because of Eckhart. Even when playing a guy who is a mass of contradictions he's so centered. The easy to watch and mostly under-appreciated Aniston also helps the sometime soggy script. Her problem is that she's not as believable as Eckhart. A real woman faced with Ryan's neuroses would run like hell.
The fact that Aniston is able to almost make Eloise believable is a major feat from a skilled actress.
The love story isn't as powerful or as interesting as the emotion-packed grief encounters done with just a sprinkling of melodrama by writer/director Brandon Camp and his co-writer Mike Thompson. Other than a contractor done nicely by veteran character actor John Carroll Lynch (Gran Torino) the characters at Ryan's encounter sessions offer up alternatively profound and comic cliche. Lynch's sparse scenes are underplayed just enough to give the encounters believability.
Overall they work. So does most of the love story until Camp and Thompson spoil what could have been a terrific three-hanky ending by an inability to resist the temptation to neatly wrap-up it up.
That is grief of a different kind.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 1/2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, September 18 at the Carmike 12 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.
5 stars/4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen4 stars / 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie. 3 stars / 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video. 2 stars / 1 star: Don't bother.0 stars: Speaks for itself