A Lot Like Love

  A Lot Like Love
"Dude, your grapes are popping out."

© 2005, Touchstone Pictures
All Rights Reserved

After an impulsive visit to the mile-high club, strangers Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily (Amanda Peet) quickly go their separate ways, yet somehow remain in each other's lives for the next seven years. Jobs come and go, as do significant others, but the spark between Oliver and Emily returns every now and again. The lovers are baffled on what to do about it, and almost miss their chance at happily ever after for good.

It's not the predictability of romantic comedies that bothers me, rather, it's flat material that gets under my skin. "A Lot Like Love" (IMDb listing) couldn't even be considered flat. "Love" is a cinematic debacle so fluffy and forgettable, I was shocked at how infuriated I had become by the time the film ended. "Love" isn't insulting, just blindingly tedious, achingly unfunny, and negligently directed.

Director Nigel Cole, who threw two fat English softballs at audiences with his mild "Calendar Girls" and "Saving Grace," wants to build a straightforward romantic comedy with "Love." Amen to that. Cole is looking to follow two characters as they intertwine over the course of seven years, leaving out subplots and assorted fat, and focusing intimately on his two lovers for the entire picture. So why does "Love" feel like it actually lasts those seven long, brutal years? Cole's quest for simplicity backfires on him, and it leaves the picture in desperate need of energy and desire. The screenplay offers no help, laboring through a sleazy meet-cute sequence, bizarre stabs at comedy (which has both actors shoving random objects up their noses), unwieldy coincidences, and a dopey wedding breakup sequence that is as old as cinema itself. For 100 minutes, "Love" goes absolutely nowhere, spending copious amounts of time with two characters who barely register on the charm meter, and on a story that never ever quite begins even when it actually decides to end. "Love" is a dull exercise in romantic comedy 101, when the genre has long proven itself capable of moving light years away from its formative inclinations without much fuss.

"Love" also solidifies that Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet are not meant to be. Two likable actors, "Love" has them permanently in a spin cycle, and the very nature of the episodic story places a tight cap on whatever chemistry they might've had with each other. Kutcher, so good when unhinged, oddly mutes himself here, playing the shy suburban boy with model good looks. Peet is also stuck with an ill-fitting role that strives to play up that tough, snappish, boy-friendly charisma every casting director in Hollywood thinks she has. The movie's most critical flub is that Oliver and Emily don't register as lovers regardless of their kisses and national park lovemaking scenes. They come off more as inbred siblings, miles away from the lovestruck puppies they are attempting to play. Without effective and believable chemistry to hook on to (since, well, that's all the film has to offer), "A Lot Like Love" has nowhere to go, and it seems Cole is positively relishing his film's brain-melting inertia.

Filmfodder Grade: F



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