A Time To Mourn
Grief and romance may be an unlikely combination for a love story, but Love Happens blends them together in a dramedy that works most of the time, thanks mainly to fine performances by co-stars Aaron Eckhart and Jennifer Aniston. Eckhart, in particular, surprised me with the depth of his work as a self-help guru who needs help himself. Too bad a schmaltzy "confession" scene near the end of the film weakens the quality of this thought-provoking production.
After Burke (Eckhart) lost his wife in an auto accident, he wrote a best-selling book about coping with grief. Unfortunately, Burke hasn’t taken the time to mourn his own loss. Adding to the stress, he can’t help feeling a bit guilty about becoming famous and making so much money as a result of his wife’s death. Now, on the verge of a big nationwide deal, Burke has taken his seminar program back to Seattle (where the fatal accident happened).
Although memories plague him, Burke perks up a bit when meeting Eloise (Aniston), an attractive florist who supplies bouquets for the hotel where his seminars are scheduled. But Burke can’t fool the down-to-earth Eloise. Realizing he’s “messed up,” Eloise tries to help Burke deal with his delayed mourning process. As we all know, the path of true love can be a rocky road, so the problems between these two characters are somewhat predictable.
Fortunately, Eckhart (Thank You for Smoking) and Aniston (Marley & Me) are appealing actors, which helps make Love Happens watchable, despite the lack of chemistry between them on screen. Because Burke and Eloise have just met and are at the beginning of their love story here, this “lack of chemistry” is understandable. (I’m sure more passion would be projected in a sequel, but don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.)
Aniston always impresses me with her likeability. In Love Happens, she portrays a woman who has just discovered her boyfriend’s infidelity -- so she gains our sympathy right away. She endows Eloise with a playful nature plus a willingness to admit she’s made some bad decisions. Still, this movie belongs to Eckhart. He’s an absolute revelation, especially when he changes in the blink of an eye from the gloomy widower to the smiling, glad-handing guru entering the huge conference room to greet his applauding fans.
John Carroll Lynch (Things We Lost in the Fire) stands out in the supporting cast as a father who reluctantly attends Burke’s seminar, hoping it will enable him to move on with his life after the death of his young son. Lynch could have hammed up this role, but instead he plays it just right -- and it’s a heart-wrenching performance. Martin Sheen (Catch Me If You Can) and Dan Fogler (Balls of Fury) are also convincing as Burke’s estranged father-in-law and gung-ho agent, respectively.
Most viewers expecting a romantic comedy will probably be disappointed by Love Happens. Although the movie evokes a few laughs -- most of them in scenes involving a parrot -- this film focuses on grief and how to deal with it in a healthy way. If I were still teaching a psychology class, I would put it on the “must-see” list for my students.
(Released by Universal Pictures and rated “PG-13” for some language including sexual references.)
For more information about Love Happens, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.