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STARRING: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Tyrone Giordano

DIRECTOR: Nigel Cole

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes

RATING: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language

THE LOWDOWN: Romantic comedy traces a bumpy relationship over seven years.

Star Amanda Peet calls her new movie " 'When Harry Met Sally' for this generation."

"A Lot Like Love," which co-stars Ashton Kutcher (no, he isn't starring in every movie at the multiplex right now, just two of them) traces the relationship of Emily and Oliver, two twentysomethings who meet, memorably, on an airline flight and then connect at random intervals over the next seven years.

But this movie actually more closely resembles "Four Weddings and a Funeral" than it does the Billy Crystal-Meg Ryan classic. Although Emily and Oliver are attracted to each other, their every meeting occurs at the wrong time, when one or the other is not ready or not interested, coming off a breakup, having a life crisis, moving, etc.

Directed by Nigel Cole (who directed the marvelous British comedy "Calendar Girls") from a screenplay by newcomer Colin Patrick Lynch, "A Lot Like Love" is that rare romantic comedy that succeeds -- at least much of the time -- in being romantic and funny and somewhat realistic about the small connections, the shared moments that build up to something that's "A Lot Like Love."

When they first meet, Emily is a wild, artistic type who has just lobbed a drink at her ex-boyfriend in the airport parking lot; Kutcher is a gawky college grad with knobby knees and a set plan for the future involving an Internet business, a house and a wife. They share some kind of connection, but Emily isn't interested.

The next seven years (marked for Peet by a succession of hair styles) show them struggling to grow up and find their way, in relationships and careers, she as an actress and then a photographer, he with a diaper business.

The doe-eyed Kutcher and bright-eyed Peet have good chemistry. He is particularly good at the start of the film as the gawky, shy guy trying to figure out this wild girl.

The strong supporting cast includes Taryn Manning as Oliver's beastly kid sister and deaf actor Tyrone "Ty" Giordano as his deaf brother. The affectionate scenes between the brothers -- Kutcher says he spent months learning American Sign Language -- add depth to the movie. Talented Kathryn Hahn (who played the bartender in "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton") is marvelous as Emily's best friend.

In the end, "A Lot Like Love" works because it knows that love is not about dramatic gestures or smoldering glances across the room. It's the little things couples do for each other -- the small rescues, the being-there-for-each-other-when-it-counts moments -- that are the stuff of true romance.


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