- RatedPG /GenreDrama, Romance
There's something I need to get out of the way - I think it's criminally unfair of my bosses at inSing to make me review a film - any film - that opens this weekend.
You see, one of my films, The Blue Mansion, directed by Glen Goei is being released at the exact same time. Which means whatever movie I review is, by default, a competitor. You see the pickle I'm in?
If I praise this week's movie, I'll be doing my own film a disfavour; if I write a bad review, I'll be accused of bias or, worse, jealousy. The worst thing is this: the week's chosen movie is Love Happens. A rom-com. Hollywood rom-com. God, help me.
I enter the cinema, full of dread, thinking, how can I possibly like this movie? I nearly threw up at the mere sight of the poster.
Well, as it turns out, within ten minutes of the opening credits, I was totally absorbed in the story.
Love Happens centres on the life of Burke Ryan, a self-help guru who arrives in Seattle to conduct a series of workshops on 'healing'. Strutting before a rapt ballroom audience, Burke speaks passionately about how he dealt with his wife's death from a freak car accident, three years ago.
With a hand on his heart, he regurgitates excerpts from his bestselling book, A-Okay. He intones trite aphorisms. "Happiness is a state of mind. All it takes is practice."
It is a wonderful opening scene: cheesy, funny, and really rather sad. I mean genuinely sad. For Burke's corny enthusiasm belies a deeper, decidedly uncorny truth: He never recovered from his wife's death. He's healed everyone but himself.
As played by the always-excellent Aaron Eckhart, Burke embodies all the searing contradictions of a man afflicted by guilt and sorrow.
We know what he must do. He must face his own demons (so the cliché goes) preferably with the aid of a young and beautiful love interest (Jennifer Aniston).
And so he does. But only incidentally so. In a mild subversion of genre, writer-director Brendon Campbell downplays the element of love, and instead concentrates on the topic of death.
In fact, given its almost singular focus on Burke's bereavement from beginning to end, Love Happens might have been entitled Death Happens instead (ignoring all marketing considerations, of course.)
Which isn't to say it the film is the least bit depressing. It is a Hollywood movie afterall, and must deliver its promised share of familiar scenes and characters, which here includes a tough but trenchant Martin Sheen as Burke's father-in-law, and a parrot named Rocky.
To sum up, Love Happens is an eminently watchable movie, whose conviction and heart impressed and surprised me.
Now, do me a favour. Go watch The Blue Mansion.
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Here's your chance to win tickets to watch Love Happens! There are 10 pairs of tickets to be given away, just check out all the details here.
Ken Kwek is a screenwriter and playwright. His film credits include the award-winning documentary, The Ballad of Vicki and Jake (2005), The Blue Mansion, directed by Glen Goei, and Kidnapper (2010), directed by Kelvin Tong. His latest play, The Composer, will be staged at The Esplanade Theatre Studio in December this year.