AWFJ Women On Film – “Love Happens” – Susan Granger reviews

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Does art imitate life or does life imitate art? It’s hard to tell with Jennifer Aniston’s wretched new romantic drama which is almost as disastrous as the tabloids’ chronicles of her off-screen, unlucky-in-love life. Why draw the obvious similarity? Because of her friend’s (Judy Greer) wry observation: “You tend to fall for these guys with expiration dates right on their foreheads.”

This time, it’s self-help author/psychologist Dr. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart), who arrives in Seattle to teach an “A-OK! A Path Through Grief” seminar and, literally, bumps into expressionless Eloise Chandler (Aniston), a floral designer, in the hallway of the hotel where he’s speaking. Burke’s conflicted back story is that he lost his wife in a car accident three years earlier and has since become a self-proclaimed ‘expert’ on sorrow. Except that he hasn’t healed himself. Nevertheless, in a grotesquely maudlin manner, he deals with an assortment of mourners, including a widow who baked her husband’s ashes into cookies and a skeptical father/contractor (John Carroll Lynch) whose 12 year-old son snapped his spine working on his construction site, urging them and other attendees to walk barefoot over hot coals. Plus, there’s a subplot in which Burke’s best friend/agent Lane (Dan Fogler) tries to get him a network deal. Eventually, Burke makes peace with his tough-guy father-in-law (Martin Sheen), a retired Marine.

Formerly titled “Traveling” and “Brand New Day,” it’s chock full of clichés co-written by Mike Thompson and debut director Brandon Camp, whose father, Joe Camp, created the “Benji” dog movies in the 1970s. Yet in a bizarre twist, screenwriters Greg Crowder and Tony Freitas are also claiming credit for this turkey, even trying to block the film’s release. Wearing an assortment of kooky hats, Aniston trades on her quirky, “Friends”-honed likeability, while Eckhart (“Thank You for Smoking,” “In the Company of Men”) vainly strives for veracity. Yet, between them, there is zero romantic chemistry. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Love Happens” is a tiresome 2. Face it, when you use that title, you’re just asking for trouble.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.