Love happens when you least expect it, and in this film, it's something put on the back burner as well, since it's a story dealing with facing one's problematic past, and moving on with life in the present. Love, if it happens, is nothing more than a by-product stemming from acknowledging one's mistakes, and the gaining of new found self-respect from a hypocritical life that one has been leading in denial.
Aaron Eckhart needs no introduction now, having starred in the largest blockbuster of last year in The Dark Knight as Harvey Dent. I'm been watching a lot of his films before that with keen interest, and there were gems like Conversations with Other Women with Helena Bonham Carter, and Thank You For Smoking, two indie gems which remind you what an ace of a character actor he is. He's no stranger to a romantic comedy, but in this role here as Burke, he crafted a very believable, and troubled even, self-help guru in the mold of Anthony Robbins, complete with a session on walking across the fire pit.
I bear a very cynical view of self-help masters, given that in my opinion, they fleece a lot of cash from telling folks what they already know, or want to know, and sometimes to a certain degree, what they ought to know which is nothing more than common sense. It's a lucrative business going by the lifestyle these guys lead, and their flock are none too smart into supporting such lifestyles, but hey, that's just me. Perhaps one day I'll come up with a book to help others, with the ulterior intention of perhaps becoming a national bestseller just because I'm stating the obvious that makes people happy, and want to come and see me speak in person telling them more of the same positive messages.
With Burke, we see how something personal with his need to get himself out of an emotional rut after his wife's death, hence his book A-Okay, turned into a bestseller, and to his in-laws, here's a man who's milking his situation for benefits of profits and recognition. But for himself, and the audience, we know he's not walking the walk, or doing what he's preaching, which of course leads to the dilemma that we're observing a hypocrite in action. On one hand he's teaching others how to move on from their pain, but in private we see that he still can't quite let go. Here's someone who does his best to help others, but has no one to turn to when he's crying for help, and couldn't be seen doing so lest his entire business built on his new persona, come crumbling down.
As a romantic movie, given that there were scenes interspersed between Burke's seminar time for that getaway meeting of two lonely hearts, the potential lover's introductory conversation from the concierge counter to the gents was nothing less than extraordinary, and probably one of the best dialogue exchanges I've heard in a long while, spewing massive generalizations of the opposite sex in terms of attitudes adopted in the dating game. One ouch moment led to another, and while I applaud Burke's tirade of how beautiful women see themselves with what truly matters being the inside, I too laughed at Jennifer Aniston's Eloise retort in a scene which just has to be seen.
Like who trains the trainer, or who watches the watchmen, Eloise becomes that shining light at the end of the dark tunnel for Burke, although it is up to him whether to head down that tunnel towards it, or prefer to languish in his comfortable position of inertia. This of course has co-writer and director Brandon Camp setting up moments staple in a romantic film for two hearts to connect, but as I've mentioned, the main story of Burke's troubles get priority, and also some screen time for veteran Martin Sheen. Dan Fogler lends his weight as a supporting cast member with nary an embarrassing situation from his rather subdued performance as Burke's agent who has engineered themselves on the cusp of a mega-deal.
Those looking for a romantic film may come away a tad disappointed, but for Eckhart fans just itching to see the man grace the big screen in another superb character performance, then Love Happens, which pretty much lives up to its title, is the film of choice.