To say that Love Happens should’ve gone straight to video is an insult to films that have gone straight to video. The story of Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart, dishy but dull), a self-help guru who can’t seem to help himself, is so tone deaf, so muddled, so poorly put together, I can only assume that the parts of the movie that made sense were left on the cutting room floor.
For starters, what kind of self help guru is Burke? His mission appears to be helping people get over a recent loss, but his motto is a smarmy and facile, “I’m A-Okay!” So is Burke, whose wife died in a car accident, supposed to be a sensitive guy with real insight into human suffering (except for his own)? Or a cheesy hack?
Burke’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of florist Eloise (Jennifer Aniston). I think Eloise is supposed to be quirky and full of life—she wears hats and drives a vintage truck, tell tale movie shorthands for free-spiritedness—but the only thing we really know about her is that she’s a vandal: She writes obscure words on the back of paintings. This completely arbitrary trait is the film’s idea of character development.
And so it goes: Eloise takes Burke to see a rock show atop a construction truck—inexplicably. They go to visit Eloise’s mom (Frances Conroy), who is a fan of Burke’s—and while the scene should give us some insight into Eloise and her past, it just sits there, utterly useless. There’s a parrot to be released in the wild, some random scenes at a poetry slam, and another scene that seems to advocate the soul-cleansing powers of shopping at Home Depot.
Clearly, the filmmakers should’ve skipped the self help aisle and gone straight to Screenwriting 101.