Cusack's Down Lover's Lane
Being recently divorced, pre-school teacher Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) finds herself reluctantly re-entering the dating scene as her family and in particular her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) set her up on a series of dates. Amongst the wide ranging dates including Lotharios and letches, she meets Jake (John Cusack) a traditional boat builder with a love of "Doctor Zhivago". Despite being seemingly perfect, Sarah passes on him and maybe also on the chance of finding true love.
It's strange as everything should work for "Must Love Dogs", we have two very appealing stars in Diane Lane and John Cusack, a storyline which although not exactly new still should be engaging enough to hold your attention and a couple of subplots which pad it out. But sadly for me "Must Love Dogs" was lacking that little something which made me connect with the characters, that made me really care whether or not they would finally get it together or not. Plus unfortunately it didn't make me really laugh; yes there were a few scenes which made me smile but not to the extent of actual laughter.
My trouble with "Must Love Dogs" stems from the two main characters, Sarah and Jake, spend so little time together that any signs of relationship feels completely unreal. It stopped me connecting to them as a couple no matter how hard I tried and in fact I found a relationship between Sarah and a single parent from the school much easier to believe than that between her and Jake. Yes I am sure the attention of director Gary David Goldberg was to get us to believe that Sarah's chance of true happiness was passing her by, by making the moments with Jake fleeting, but it failed to work. Instead it made the relationship feel too unreal and a little bit cliché.
Thankfully there are some good things about "Must Love Dogs" that make up for the ruined main storyline, most notably the casting which works well to add a lot of charm to this slightly flat movie. Diane Lane again proves that she can play your average every day woman without needing to turn her into an over the top caricature and she displays that sort of insecurity of a thirty something forced back into the world of dating as well as a warmth which makes her completely appealing. And then there is John Cusack who does well playing the intense and romantic Jake who has a romantic notion as to what love is thanks to his fondness for Doctor Zhivago. In the few scenes that Diane Lane and John Cusack share "Must Love Dogs" comes alive and if only there were more of these I am sure it would have been a lot more engaging.
What this all boils down to is that sadly "Must Love Dogs" just failed to deliver that real warmth and fun I expect from a romantic comedy leaving me feeling a little cheated because theoretically this should have been great. Diane Lane and John Cusack do a good job of making it as appealing as they can but with such little screen time together "Must Love Dogs" feels a little lost and too unreal for my liking.