The romantic comedy is a genre that we, as moviegoers, are bombarded with year round. It’s a tricky genre, as the films are either frequently awful (How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days), watchable (50 First Dates), or, in rare cases, exceptional (Love Actually). A Lot Like Love manages to sway my little equation, as it falls between watchable and quite good, but nowhere near exceptional.
Oliver Martin (Kutcher) is a fairly ordinary man who doesn’t quite know where he wants to go in life. He still lives with his parents and figures that whatever happens, happens. While at the airport to hop a flight from Los Angeles to New York to see his brother, he makes eye contact with Emily, a rocker chick who is being harassed by her boyfriend. They board the flight together, and minutes later Emily is knocking on the door to the lavatory to jump Oliver’s bones. The two join the Mile High Club in a PG-13 kinda way.
After they land in New York Oliver tries to make verbal contact with Emily so that they can talk about what happened on the flight and what will happen next. Emily lives by the “don’t talk, you’ll ruin it” code, but the two spend time in a bar that night talking about their lives and where they will be years down the line. Neither are in a situation for a relationship, but Oliver gives Emily his number and tells her to call in six years. By then he’ll surely be a millionaire, married, and a father, or so he predicts.
Over the course of the next seven years Oliver and Emily’s lives intersect at various locations throughout the country. Is it destiny? Will they finally get together? Is Hollywood adventuresome?
If you’re reading this and already slamming your fist on the office desk while yelling “cliches! cliches!” you wouldn’t be out of line. After a fresh and funny first half, A Lot Like Love settles into the Hollywood standard of mishmashing cliches and seemingly improbable situations. One giant misstep and this could have been an awful film.
But it isn’t, and that is in large part due to the performances of Kutcher and Peet. Ashton Kutcher has finally found a happy medium between being annoying and being funny, with the result coming across as a surprisingly ordinary guy. He has his over-the-top moments, but overall this is a subdued and much more mature Kutcher than we’ve seen in previous films. Amanda Peet holds everything together with a dynamic performance that female leads in romantic comedies are rarely given. She transforms from a gothy rocker to a mature single woman over the course of the film, but her flightiness remains. The two leads are the bread and butter of this film, and it works.
Screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch makes excellent use of 90’s nostalgia in the early scenes of the film. He develops the characters very nicely over the course of the seven years that they story takes place, complete with character traits that nearly anyone in the audience can relate with. Director Nigel Cole gives us a breath of fresh air in terms of locales. It seems like nearly every romantic comedy of late takes place in Manhattan or New York City. Cole takes us out west, out east, and virtually everywhere in between with some great location shooting. He also keeps the story moving at a decent clip and we always know what year it is.
A Lot Like Love does run into some problems in its final one-third of runtime. By then it is firmly planted in pre-packaged Hollywood rom-com cliches complete with a real eye-roller of a contrivance during the film’s finale. The advantage it has going into this act, however, is that we have already been won over and won’t yell at the screen as loud as usual when the characters begin acting like puppets.
A Lot Like Love is an above average venture into the tired world of romantic comedy. The two leads make this worth the trip to the theater, and dedicated Kutcher and Peet fans will be very pleased with this effort. You’re either the audience or you’re not for these types of releases, but as someone who felt he needed a break from the genre going into the the theater, I was pleasantly surprised by this film.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 107 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language.
Theatrical Release: April 22, 2005
Directed by: Nigel Cole
Written by: Colin Patrick Lynch
Cast: Amanda Peet, Ashton Kutcher, Taryn Manning, Aimee Garcia, Lee Garlington, Birdie M. Hale