If Love Happens were a bar skank, it would have the words “Best Picture 2010” tattooed all over its stretchmarked ass.
While on the surface it appears to be your typical bland rom-com, appearances can be deceiving. Put down your gavel and powdered wig and don’t judge this book by its cover. The premise is simple: a widower (Aaron Eckhart) becomes a self-help guru after his wife passes. He falls for another woman (Jennifer Aniston) and realizes that he has yet to accept his wife’s death.
This is where most rom-coms would descend into the depths of cringe-inducing pabulum, but not Love Happens. It refuses to take the easy way out. On one hand, Aaron still loves his wife. On the other hand, he loves Aniston. Dual forces are tugging at his moral center. One could almost say he was being ripped in two. Ultimately, he has to choose one or the other, and he does so the only way a widower/self-help guru knows how: by flipping a coin.
Cut to the observation deck of the Empire State Building. He yells out, “Heads, I go with Aniston. Tails, I set up a cot and mini-fridge next to the gravestone of my dead wife and just live there until I die and/or the cops forcibly remove me.” I thought it was odd that he called her Aniston, but the picture was so good that at that point nothing could take me out of this stark reality the filmmaker had created. In a dramatic, slow-motion coin flip, it comes up heads. But not so fast, Aaron Eckhart! She’s not quite ready to take you back. Because of his waffling earlier, Aniston has moved on to a new man. Now Aaron has to win her back.
That may sound contrived and corny to you, but believe me when I tell you that this film’s third act has inventiveness coming out its butthole. Because just when you think that Aniston is going to get back with Eckhart, Eckhart’s dead zombie wife crawls out of the grave. But she doesn’t do stereotypical zombie stuff. She instead pays off local mobster Salvatore Maroni to throw a vial of acid in Eckhart’s face while Eckhart is questioning Maroni during his upcoming trial. There was no earlier mention of Eckhart being a district attorney or a lawyer, and the appearance of washed up C-Lister Eric Roberts in the role of Maroni was somewhat jarring, but whatever.
So, to recap – Zombie Wife is out for revenge, Eric Roberts is horribly miscast as a mobster but no one seems to mind, and Aaron Eckhart’s face is split into two portions – the handsome half and the messed up acid-burned part. Aniston goes to visit Eckhart in the hospital. His face is so fucked up she can’t even look at him. He gets real mad. Well, where do you go when you’re pissed off and you want to get happy? The circus, that’s where. Well, he goes, but he’s so pissed off that the elephants don’t do any tricks that he kills a whole family of acrobats known as the Flying Graysons. He then grabs the circus mic and announces, “I’m going to go kidnap Commissioner Gordon’s family. Peace, bitches. Two-Face, out!” Then he drops the mic, goes out of his way to shoulder-block the Ringmaster, and saunters out. Fade to black, cut to end credits.
In the stodgy world of formulaic romantic comedies, what a breath of fresh air. If you say you want your rom-coms with more kissing, more puppies, and more happy endings, that’s fine. You keep it that way. I say subvert the genre. I’ll take my romance with a heaping helping of action, a side of suspense, and just a dash of Two-Face thrown in. I’ll go so far as to say that this film marks the birth of a new genre: the romantic Two-Face comedy. All you need is Aaron Eckhart, a sappy premise, and a flimsy excuse to have someone in the film douse Aaron Eckhart’s character with acid.