Just when you think you've had enough of flimsy romantic comedies for one year, there's always one that will offer you a glimpse of potential for the genre who were too quick to write off. 'Love Happens' probably won't change your world but it might make you feel better about it.
Burke Ryan (Eckhart) has become a national brand. He picks people up after they have suffered a loss, he dusts them off and gets them back on the right track. You might say he's the self-help king, except for the fact that he doesn't take any of his own advice. Inside the man who can turn on the smiles and gimmicks on demand lies a broken man, struggling to get over the death of his wife.
Eloise Chandler (Aniston) has been unlucky in love. She picks the wrong guys, optimistic that they will come good. They never do. So when she meets Burke Ryan, by chance, she isn't about to let him sweet-talk her by laying on his very rehearsed brand of charm. In fact she's all set to give him a piece of her mind.
So begins a journey in which Burke is forced to confront the real issues that he preaches about to other people. He's well-intentioned enough but there are some who know the truth and think of him as a fraud. His father-in-law (Sheen) is one such person. Others, like his trusty agent Lane (Fogler), are more understanding of his plight but he soon realises that maybe that's not doing him any favours.
This movie blends a fair share of the sad with the happy, reducing its predictability a little and making it more likeable for the fact that it mirrors reality more than most romantic tales. Aniston is on top form here, playing a character that has just the right amount of quirks and personality to set the role apart from any of her previous characters. Eckhart, on the other hand, isn't quite as credible as the dashing hunk of her dreams, although he nails both the pained doctor and his public persona well. There's just something missing in the chemistry. Surprisingly, it is the support cast that really grab you here. Sheen (particularly), Greer, Carroll Lynch and Fogler are all excellent in their smaller roles, really adding a spark to the story.
Yes it's cheesy, yes it's fluffy but 'Love Happens' has a little bit more about it than your average 'oh so predictable' rom-com. The characters have a bit of an edge, particularly Aniston's, and the story is somehow richer for its frequent downers, that serve as reality-checks.
It's not so much 'feel-good' as 'feel-real', but sometimes that's more comforting.