"Love Happens" is the rare Hollywood romance concerned with emotions other than love at first sight. Sure, its mismatched partners -- Jennifer Aniston as Eloise, a florist unlucky in love, and Aaron Eckhart as Burke, a best-selling author of self-help books -- meet, trade barbs and have several quirky dates.
But there's a deep vein of grief running through "Love Happens." Burke leads seminars in which he helps the bereaved deal with the deaths of loved ones, based on his experience after his wife died in a car accident. Behind closed doors, he's falling apart.
Aniston brings a lot of heart to "Love Happens." Perhaps realizing how undercooked her character is, first-time director-writer Brandon Camp and writer Mike Thompson pile on the quirks. Eloise secretly writes SAT vocabulary words on hotel walls; she saves index cards with her favorite floral greetings; she smokes hookahs at slam poetry readings.
Eckhart is solid; he's the rare leading man who's actually not that great at playing the motivational-speaker side of Burke, but he commits fully to Burke's troubles. Unfortunately, he's saddled with a Big Secret regarding the death of his wife, which is revealed disappointingly at the film's climax.
In a movie that admirably preaches against shortcuts in life, it's a shame to have this narrative shortcut, which feels like it's transplanted from another, much worse, film. It's a real misstep in an otherwise well-crafted, if downbeat, drama that might catch you by surprise, according to The Washington Post's review.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969