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Love Happens, 12A, 109 mins, ODEON Merry Hill, Four stars
WITH a quirky charm which mostly outweighs moments of schmaltz, Love Happens is an enjoyable if not ground-breaking romantic drama.
Aaron Eckhart stars as self-help guru Dr Burke Ryan whose “A-Okay” guide to getting over bereavement has become a best-seller.
Burke advocates mourners confront their pain in order to move on but is unable to take his own advice since the tragic death of his wife in a car crash three years earlier.
When Burke’s self-help tour arrives in Seattle for a sold-out seminar with his ecstatic followers a chance meeting with florist Eloise Chandler (Jennifer Aniston) leads to a journey of self discovery which allows them to let go of the past and embrace happiness.
Eckhart and Aniston have a believable on-screen chemistry which is made more believable by their characters’ rocky road to romance.
At their first meeting in Burke’s hotel lobby a cynical Eloise pretends to be deaf to get away from his unwanted advances.
Then their first date is a disaster as neither knows what to say and they appear to have nothing in common – until they both open up and admit to having been burnt by previous relationships.
The pair become good friends as they share their experiences – Burke talks about his guilt over the death of his wife and Eloise reveals she was cheated on by her last boyfriend.
This is mostly a heart-warming and emotive story which deals with the subjects of love, relationships, death and moving on with sensitivity and some humour.
Dan Fogler as Burke’s agent Lane and Judy Greer as Eloise’s shop assistant Marty add some light-hearted wit to what could have been quite a depressing subject.
Aniston is her usual charming self here and she plays it right –understated but mysterious with a sprinkling of quirkiness, although this is not her best performance.
Eckhart also exudes enough charisma to make us believe the complex Burke would have his devoted fans eating out of the palm of his hand.
There are some purely saccharine moments such as the release of Burke’s wife’s parrot into the wild and the manic applause of his followers when he makes his confession to them.
But these are tempered by the genuinely moving scene where Burke and his former father-in-law (Martin Sheen) are reunited and make their peace as the self-help guru finally helps himself and releases his pent-up feelings.
As we head towards the inevitable happy ending even the most cynical movie-goer will probably raise a smile.
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