"Love Happens" isn't entirely what this appealingly peculiar movie is about. It's more like "Death Happens." Or, if it were a slightly more tough-minded movie, "S--- Happens."
But then who'd ever have gone to see a movie called "Death Happens?" That, though, is, I assure you, everything that's truly interesting about "Love Happens." The love stuff is, by far, the least of it, which is why Jennifer Aniston, quite rightly, gets second billing to Aaron Eckhart in the movie.
The movie drags love into the proceedings with a notable lack of passion and dedication. That's because the movie is really about death. And mourning. And grief. And guilt. And doublethink as the American way of life. And, fascinatingly, the degree to which the recovery movement has had a walloping influence over American entertainment of the last 15 years.
Eckhart stars as a motivational grief counselor who wrote his best-selling book "A-OK" because he lost his wife in a car accident. He was a highdome psychologist, though (think Dr. Phil without snake oil and the ever-present aroma of cow droppings), so "A-OK" outlined his own procedures for getting past the grief that crushed his soul.
Except that he never really did, which is what the movie is about. He claims not to drink but knocks back Grey Gooses (should that be "Grey Geese?") as if they were iced tea. He hasn't even been able to talk to his late wife's parents in the three years since her death.
He's back, though, in Seattle, America's scruffiest and most eccentric urban center and a perfect setting for this extremely eccentric movie (which is, out of desperation no doubt being sold as a romantic comedy.)
He's running a series of grief seminars and workshops to help others recover.
Our hero, the hypocrite and Grey Goose keeper, is a highly functional specimen of American doublethink, wherein Americans routinely become gifted in the practice of curing others of everything that still torments themselves.
Until, that is, he runs into Eloise, a Seattle florist who, because she's played by Aniston, is almost immediately introduced to us as someone fleeing from a cheating, rock star boyfriend.
Aniston and Eckhart are both excellent here. If the movie, in fact, didn't think it had to involve the sort of mushy stuff that studio executives like, it might have gone its own eccentrically downbeat way with even less comedy than is here.
A very peculiar movie and that's what's good about it.
Review: Three stars (out of four)
Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Martin Sheen and John Carroll Lynch in Brandon Camp's film about a motivational grief counselor struggling with his own grief. 109 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language including sexual references. Opened Friday in area theaters.