In Need of Some Self Help
In a way "Love Happens" reminds of "Marley & Me" because it shares the same problem and that is the mix of who is in it and how it has been promoted. Take the cast you have Aaron Eckhart who has Dan Fogler as a buddy and then there is Jennifer Aniston whose friend is played by Judy Greer if that doesn't scream out romantic comedy I don't know what will. And that screaming out romantic comedy also comes from the promotion because watching the trailer for "Love Happens" it portrays the romance and comedy of the movie. Yet truth be told "Love Happens" isn't a romantic comedy, it is a drama about a man who tells others how to grieve yet has never grieved himself, living the lie as he can't face up to the fact that his wife has gone. But then because of the cast, because there is comedy in the movie to the point it almost feels like it is satirizing the self help system it creates an uneasy balance which simply doesn't work making "Love Happens" a movie which doesn't know what it is.
3 years after the death of his wife Burke (Aaron Eckhart - The Dark Knight) has become a successful motivational speaker and author helping those who are struggling to deal with grief. It is why he is in the city where he meets and falls for Eloise (Jennifer Aniston - He's Just Not That Into You) the florist he bumps into in the hotel. But Burke has a secret because whilst he may help those struggling to grieve he has never grieved himself, living a lie as he refuses to confront his emotions over his own loss.
In a way it is understandable why "Love Happens" ended up coming across in the promotion as a romantic comedy because almost the first half is exactly that. We get the comedy of Burke being a motivational speaker, a writer of a self help book who offers advice to those who are struggling to move on from a loved one. The whole thing feels like it is making a joke out of the industry both in the over the top styling of when Burke gets introduced to a crowd at a convention to the fact he is a hypocrite, telling others not to drink yet is a secret drinker. Even before that we get humour of if something bad is going to happen it will happen to him.
And accompanying this we have the romance because we have Burke meeting Eloise who initially fobs him off by pretending to be deaf, using sign language to fend of his advances. It is strangely amusing although what follows is rather routine where they go on various dates with things not going well mixed with fairytale style romantic gestures. Add the quirky use of the hidden unusual words which Burke finds and for the first 45 minutes we are very much talking a light hearted romantic comedy.
But then whilst we have this romantic comedy it does occasionally hint of the drama and that is the simple fact that Burke is a hypocrite, helping others to deal with grief yet never having handled his own grief over the death of his wife. It is an uncomfortable mix as you go from a fun romantic date to Burke then doing a workshop for those who are struggling and it makes it feel very shallow. In fact at times it goes seriously wrong and makes light of those who are struggling with grief as it tries to make fun of the self help industry making it uncomfortable. It is simply a confused movie trying to be two things which don't work together making it uneasy to watch.
But as well as the issues with the uneasy way the storyline comes across you also have the issues with typecasting. Now if "Love Happens" was purely a romantic comedy then there would be nothing wrong with Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler and Judy Greer being cast, in fact they would be great in a pure romantic comedy. But because of this and because of the promotion they seem wrong when it comes to the emotional drama side of the movie and it ends up making their characters conflicted.
What this all boils down to is that "Love Happens" basically doesn't know what it is. Cast for being a romantic comedy yet being a romantic drama with a touch of comedy it just doesn't work. It becomes conflicted and corny even uneasy when the satirizing of the self help industry encroaches on making light of those grieving. It's not as bad as some will make out but you do need to put any preconceived ideas aside when you see that it stars Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler and Judy Greer and prepare yourself for romantic drama rather than just romantic comedy.