It is not often that 'popular romance comedies' have the courage to tackle issues like death and grieving and make the story work, but such is the case with LOVE HAPPENS, a good little film written (with Mike Thompson) and directed by Brandon Camp. And it helps to have a solid cast of popular and well-schooled actors to pull off a subject that might make a few people uneasy.
Dr. Burke (Aaron Eckhart) is a seminar man who runs a business with his colleague Lane (Dan Fogler) based on helping people cope with grief - a group called 'A-Okay'. Burke is a popular guru, more so because of his reason for ministering to grievers: his beloved wife died three years ago in a car accident so Burke can speak about grief from experience. But it seems he is running away from something, too. Most of his followers don't notice, but one man Walter (John Carroll Lynch) is a particularly needy client and seems to pick up on something missing in Burke's seminars. Burke is currently in Seattle (his deceased wife's home) with his manager Lane (who is cooking up all manner of marketing tools and opportunities for the A-Okay team). Burke happens to literally bump into Eloise (Jennifer Aniston) who owns a flower business catering to the hotel in which the seminar is being staged. Eloise seems addicted to losers, and is freshly apart from her latest affair: she is comforted and supported by her sole employee, the somewhat dingy Marty (Judy Greer in a terrific cameo), who encourages Eloise to look for some stability in her next mate.
Burke is attracted to Eloise but is so out of practice in the dating game that he comes across as vulnerable - a trait that makes Eloise wary at first and attracted later. The odd things the two do in the mating dance finally result in the uncovering of the secret problems Burke carries. Refreshingly enough the film does not sell out with a happy-wappy ending, just a few thoughts that are particularly tender.
Eckhart and Aniston are a terrific team on the screen: both are lovable without resorting to being sappy and repetitive. Fogler and Greer are excellent as are such fine actors as Martin Sheen and Frances Conroy in memorable cameos. There is a lot to like in this film that makes it a step above the usual 'chick flicks' that were more popular in theaters. Perhaps audiences, sadly, have difficulty hearing about grieving, but death, as well as Love, happens! Grady Harp, February 10