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Non-Review Review: Love Happens

The screening of Up was sold out. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

"You know what the difference between you and me is? I'm not wearing any socks."

"You know what the difference between you and me is? I'm not wearing any socks."

My brain! My brain! My precious brain! Why are these sort of romantic movies about people getting over stuff so ridiculous hypocritical and condescending? The movie would be offensive to those suffering bereavement if it wasn’t so ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I don’t mean funny. I mean ridiculous.

The lead male character, in what seems to the norm for these sorts of movies, is a terrible person. I mean a really terrible person. And the movie expects not only for us to love and respect him, but for those he has actively screwed with to forgive him as well. Burke Ryan lost his wife three years ago and now runs self-help seminars to help those grieving to cope with it. As sleazy as him making millions off the death of his wife is, here’s a list of just some of the horrible, horrible things that he does over the course of the movie:

  • after his agent (and best friend) has checked repeatedly that Burke is cool with making a merchandising deal, Burke decides to express his discomfort with the deal by simply not showing up and leaving his friend hanging;
  • after the death of his wife, he doesn’t deal with her grieving parents, and when her father calls him on it, we’re expected to see him as a jerk. Later, instead of communicating with them, he kidnaps his wife’s pet parrot from them – and keep in mind this is the only item of hers we see in their possession;
  • after his wife’s death, she asks him to release her pet tropical parrot into the wild. He obliges – by releasing this obviously tropical bird in the middle of a Seattle winter, when it is so cold you can see his breath;
  • after he catches one of the attendees of his seminars leaving, he then bullies the guy back into joining him up – making him the sole focus of his therapy. How does Burke help this guy deal with the death of his son on a building site? Retail therapy at Home Depot. Yes, not actually building anything – just spending $2,000;
  • in a much less serious example, he deals with the fact that a woman blew him off by flicking her the finger. Admittedly she was faking a disability (and that makes her a bad person), but still… This guy gets so ticked off at a woman refusing his advances that he gives her the middle-finger salute, despite the fact that we’re being repeatedly told he still misses his wife.

And this is even without the movie’s central revelation, which would make him something of a flawed and sympathetic character – if he hadn’t been a complete dick up until this point. That revelation might be forgivable if he had held himself at all accountable for what had happened. Instead, we’re expected to believe that turning his wife’s death into a multi-million-dollar industry is some sort of self-induced punishment for what happened – and the movie expects us to believe that he has been too harsh on himself.

The movie is far too comfortable with this lead character who – even ignoring the laundry list of actions above – is at best a huckster or a confidence man. The movie suggests at one single point that he might have issues with converting his already-profitable seminars into an entertainment empire with diet pills and DVD releases, but the movie quickly brushes this off as inappropriate guilt. The notion that his face might not appear on products telling those who have lost family they need to lose weight is seen as an example of him punishing himself, not a serious ethical concern in the work that he does.

The cast should be able to do better. The only person in the cast who emerges with his credability intact is Martin Sheen, who does get to deliver a solid kick to the bereavement business his son-in-law is running. Of course, the film can’t have those serious issues discussed, so this welcome display of frank honest is undermined at the emotional climax of the film. I was really hoping that Martin Sheen would hit that conman in the face. Really frickin’ hard.

 The movie is just terrible. Even ignoring the horrible premise and the way that the script side-steps any uncomfortable issues, it just isn’t structured well enough to be a convincing romantic comedy. We get no sense of Jennifer Aniston as the woman who worms her way into his heart, and there are no other characters – just tools used by the movie to manipulate the audience. The music selection is less than fantastic (with the accompanying original soundtrack being just terrible) and, though the direction has its moments (mostly with montages), the film has no idea what the hell it is doing at any one time and if it can’t be bothered to care, why should we?

All-in-all a really crap excuse for a film in an already exploitive genre.

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2 Responses

  1. Poor Aaron Eckhart. It worked in Thank You For Smoking, guess it doesn’t work here.

  2. sub-headline of the day
    thanks Darren

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