If there's anything I loathe in this world (and trust me, there is), it's self help books and videos. I can't stand them. People are inherently flawed, no one is perfect, I get that, but these same flawed people focus on their weaknesses with random seminars or talk shows or books, actually thinking they'll change, and better themselves.
Not. Gonna. Happen. Sure, it's a quick route to fortune if you can get the gullible Oprah viewers to buy into your program, and even a chimp with amputated fingers could type out a routine, but why sell one's soul? Why scam others? They won't change, so why make them miserable and take their money? These people are the types who wait for New Years Day to make a resolution to change, to better themselves, because they need the motivation of a different digit in the calendar, and even then they usually fail at their goals in under a week. I don't care what "Secret" is being revealed, and I certainly don't care what modern science miracle someone discovered to whiten his teeth. I can accept my flaws, and why I have them, rather than trying to better myself for the eyes of others.
'Love Happens' just happens to feature one of these self help peddlers, preaching a message that he himself should have ingested long ago for his own problems. And to top it off, the romantic comedy features Hollywood's most unlucky at love. Oh boy, I get to feed my tabloid cravings by watching Jennifer Aniston be miserable, art imitating publication life, and I get to focus on a character I will never, ever empathize with.
This is a story that could be told with a simple run down the alphabet, and could be predicted by anyone who knows said series of letters. Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart) is a touring self-help novel author, currently in Seattle to instill the teachings of his A-OK program. In his week in town, Burke happens to bump into (literally, twice) Eloise Chandler (Aniston), a florist with peculiar tastes and habits who just might B single, having just broken up with her boyfriend Tyler (Joe Anderson). Anyone could C where this is going, as Burke courts the young unlucky at love lady, with mixed success. The thing is, Burke is an utter D-bag, as he doesn't practice what he preaches, as the skeletons in his closet make him more in need of help than anyone he is "helping," a case of the blind leading the blind. Eloise forces Burke to face his past and accept it, so he can move forward in his life and become a fuller person. Something, something E, predictable, predictable, predictable, that's all there is, so F it.
A self-helper in Seattle who is in serious need of self-help. I've seen this before, and I've seen it done a thousand times better. Some television show, you may have heard of it, called 'Frasier.' The thing is, 'Love Happens' is like a montage of moments worse than even the lowest moment in Kelsey Grammar's tale, a ridiculous, preposterous, predictable (I've said it before, but it has to be said again), cookie cutter, generic, cliche, utterly pathetic "romp" that does its best to show off as much of its city as possible, as the setting is a thousand times more interesting than the story happening in it.
Burke is a real loser, period the end. He isn't deep, he isn't scarred. It is hard to like a character who constantly quotes himself and his works, incessantly. His speeches make no sense either. He stands in front of large crowds, and draws conclusions to stories that should have logical outcomes that have nothing to do with the set up. Eloise is utterly unlikeable. We sympathize with her more than any other character, due to witnessing a betrayal against her (from a character who is greatly fleshed out in the deleted scenes), but in the long run, it's the same damn character we've seen from Aniston time and time again.
What other cheesy or offputting moments are spottable on first (painful) look? Exposition in 'Love Happens' is done amazingly ham handedly, in a segment that has no bearing on the rest of the film, existing solely to get backstory out there. Eckhart's Burke channels a previous role, since he is awfully two faced and hypocritical. If Burke is such a rock star, why do none of the women in his seminars, who feel they know the man having read the book poured out from his heart, ever approach him? The opening montage is cliche and trite, and the intended "delicious" irony that the film tries to shove down our throats is hardly effective. Gee, a self help man who needs self help, that's not at all like a psychiatrist who needs psychiatric care...
I may not be a huge fan of romantic comedies in the first place, due to their inescapable cliche riddled plots and awfully forced messages, but 'Love Happens' is one of the furthest examples of an intriguing film in the genre. There's nothing unique or original to be found, the characters are a complete bore, and a few moments feel like glorified commercials. Must. Shop. At. Home. Depot. I'm amazed there aren't about three thousand different Starbucks' in the sensationalized Seattle cityscape. Do yourself a favor and grab a grande before sitting down to this steaming pile of boring, as you may need it to stay awake.
'Love Happens' is presented with a VC-1 1080p encode that is quite nice for a film of this nature, though it has some hang ups that prevent it from being a top notch title.
Skin tones have a nearly constant subtle hint of orange, like every Seattleite got a Hollywood tan job. Colors are strong, and particularly vast in any scene in Eloise's flower boutique. Grain levels are light, and never appear tampered with. Fine object detail is utterly superb, as the set decorations are on display with fantastic clarity, and the film sports a nice looking three dimensional aspect.
The problems with the transfer are somewhat minor, but they add up in a hurry. Delineation is subpar at most, while there are also some issues with banding, noise, and some light flickering. The lighting in the A-OK seminars creates a light purple haze that surrounds objects, making them look like a nuclear glowing Grimace. Aside from purple haze (which makes you think of another product of Seattle), there also appears to be a tiny veneer of edge enhancement. There are a few softer shots, as well, but they aren't a major distraction.
While I never go into any rom-com with high expectations for the audio, as they are notoriously inactive beasts, 'Love Happens' surprised me, just slightly, with a fairly immersive track, when it wanted.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix had zero problems pushing out every intelligent and moving line of dialogue with clarity, though, expectedly, the words all stayed in the front speakers. Rears got plenty of use from music (which can actually get fairly loud in a few scenes, surprisingly), and audiences, though funnily enough, when an audience is all in front of the camera, there is still noise from behind. Awkward!!! The rears also do a fine job of giving off a light ambience, with little bits of wind and city noise (though nowhere near enough noise for a city as crowded as Seattle) popping up in any exterior shot. There isn't much bass, but in a few pivotal musical moments, it can get thumping.
I'd like to grab Burke Ryan's candle of truth, and say a few words. First, you ripped off 'The Lord of the Flies,' and a conch shell works much better. Next, shove it. The Blu-ray release just happens to be more than decent in terms of its technical presentation, but the extras are lame deathblows. 'Love Happens' reminds me of another particular saying involving things happening...