Lameness happens ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lameness happens

Love Happens
My rating:

A film critic's lot is a lonely one. I've got my own schedule of films to watch and review, and I can't always find a friend to accompany me. (And in the case of local films, it's nigh impossible.) But it certainly is more enjoyable than watching movies alone, and more so if said company is a film buff like myself, of course; all the better for talking about the movie afterwards. The friend I watched this with, however, is not - other than a couple of other films I recommended to her, we talked about entirely non-film-related things during our post-movie dinner.

Which was fine by me. At least it took my mind off the lousy movie.

Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is a self-help guru specialising in dealing with the loss of loved ones. His agent Lane (Dan Fogler) books him a seminar in Seattle, to which he agrees only reluctantly; this is the city in which his wife died three years ago. As he attempts to help Walter (John Carroll Lynch), a grieving father attending his seminar, he meets Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) and begins a tentative romance. But the real reason he avoids Seattle is because he himself has not gotten over his wife's death - as his former father-in-law (Martin Sheen) reminds him.

I don't read self-improvement books. I've been an avowed scoffer of the whole self-help genre ever since someone bought me a copy of Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese?, a 90-page book that was about 88 pages of padding, years ago. I find most motivational stuff cheap and facile, and can't help but suspect their gurus of being money-grubbing hucksters. So no, I'm not exactly primed to like a movie in which the protagonist is a self-help author with his own catchphrase and hand gesture, conducting a seminar in which he's treated like a rock star. Although the fact that his thing is helping people who've lost spouses, lovers, children and other loved ones earns it some poignancy points.

Still, my overall impression of this film is that it's lazy. Its plot is chock-full of cliches, but it doesn't even push its cliches far enough. Lane is your typical comic-relief sidekick - shorter, fatter, less handsome than the male lead but wisecracks more - yet his wisecracks aren't really that funny. And Eloise is your typical quirky Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but again, she's not quirky enough. She's just kind of this florist who knows a thing or two about flowers, and takes Burke out on one cool date... and that's about it. And she has this habit of scrawling bombastic words on the walls behind hotel paintings, which is obviously meant to be sooo quirky, but the film never bothers to explain what that's all about. It's as if director Brandon Camp and his co-screenwriter Mike Thompson were aware of the cliches, but think that merely dipping their toes in them is equivalent to avoiding them.

And the way the film portrays Burke's motivational methods is equally lame. Seriously, a walk over hot coals? That's the brilliant fear-conquering exercise that's gonna earn you a national TV/DVD deal? The subplot about Walter, one of Burke's seminar attendees, is at first effective - mainly because he's the one calling bullshit on Burke's pop psychology platitudes - but then it culminates in a scene that inexorably draws palm to face. Home Depot isn't a known brand here, but in the U.S. it's synonymous with DIY home improvement. They must've paid some big bucks for their product placement in this movie, as the catalyst for a grieving father's cathartic healing no less. Aiyoo, Messrs. Camp and Thompson, what laa??

If there's a saving grace in this film, it's Aaron Eckhart. He's been on the verge of leading-man stardom for years, and though this film isn't going to get him there, it certainly proves he deserves it. His performance never strikes a wrong note, and gives it far more class than the movie deserves. Likewise John Carroll Lynch's; he's one of those "that guy!" actors who's never famous, but does solid work in small roles. As for Jennifer Aniston - aiyoo, she sucks. Her performance here is all annoyingly knowing glances and tight-lipped grins; she generates zero chemistry with Eckhart, and comes across as more of a concerned aunt than a romantic interest. I used to be a fan of Friends, and I too thought that Rachel was the most desirable amongst them. What happened??

Don't go in expecting a rom-com; you will note that I left the "Comedy" label off this post, because it's more of a sedate drama with occasional laughs than an out-and-out comedy. But "sedate" would be too generous a description - it's just lame. Not funny enough, not romantic enough, not clever, not insightful, and utterly hackneyed and predictable. Pop quiz: Burke helps people heal from the loss of their loved ones, but hasn't gotten over his own wife's death. So guess what's gonna happen on the final day of his seminar, as he stands on stage before all his adoring fans, and agent, and corporate sponsors, and former father-in-law? Bonus points if you can link to the trope page from TVTropes. (Hint: it rhymes with "blow crap".)

Expectations: go easy on me Afdlin


Aidi-Safuan said...

hahahaha....nice info!
thanx ~