Sunday, February 28, 2010

Love Happens (Brandon Camp, 2009)

Crap happens

Brandon Camp's Love Happens (2009) is not so much a romantic comedy (something of a relief) as it is a romantic drama (oh god) where a man struggles to come to terms with the death of his wife and possibly fall in love with someone new.

And that's pretty much it; if you're interested in the details, you could look it up on the Internet Movie Database, or one of the half dozen entertainment magazines that bother to cover these things, along with which actor is sleeping with who, after breaking up with Madonna. All I could think of watching the picture is: “Boy, Seattle is a beautiful place--”

I mean it, too. The city settles like a quilt onto a group of hills; it's sandwiched between Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east--in nighttime shots it glitters like a crystal and porcelain service set on purple tablecloth for a royal dinner. Movie director Camp for your delectation presents images of the Space Needle at night (which doesn't so much resemble a rocket ready for take off as it does a fairy-castle tower poised to stride across the horizon), of gently sloping cobbled streets, of ravishing mountain forests. At one point the mourner and his prospective girlfriend ride a hydraulic lift to sneak a peek at a Rogue Wave concert (Seattle was the epicenter of grunge music, and today is venue to many alternative bands); at another they visit the tombstones of Bruce and Brandon Lee, which piqued my interest (I've got to go pay my respects someday); they seem to walk everywhere and at all times including late at night, which indicates a nice, safe city to wander in (looking at a few numbers and making a few guesstimates, I'd say there is a rate of roughly twenty-four violent crimes per 100,000 residents per year, which is more than, say, Tokyo (ridiculously safe) but much, much lower than the rest of the United States). If the travelogue patter and statistics don't exactly thrill you, well, neither did the movie thrill me. I do wish they had shown more of the city's vibrant cuisine--I hear their seafood is out of sight.

I suppose I have to talk actors--I've never understood the appeal of Jennifer Anniston, and I suppose I never will; seems like every fluff magazine from People Magazine to, well, Entertainment Weekly does a monthly watch on the woman, because her blank expression stares out of almost every cover in a magazine stand. Bony body, bony face, and far as I can see, bony acting--she apparently started out on some television situation comedy set on a sofa in a coffee shop, then had a middling career on the big screen (the magazines seem more interested in who she's sleeping with than what she's doing professionally).

Aaron Eckhart--here's to hoping Anniston's sleeping with Eckhart, the only possible reason I can think for him to be involved in this project. I thought he was excellent in Brian De Palma's much maligned, much underrated The Black Dahlia--his Lee Blanchard was a scenery chewer, a violent defender of women physically abused by violent men, and while most people thought the performance out-of-control and over-the-top, I thought it the perfect ornament for such a darkly baroque, brilliant film. I even thought De Palma improved on the novel by dropping a crucial bit of information at a point when it would suddenly illuminate Blanchard's erratic past behavior, the same time it would color our view of erratic behavior yet to come.

Eckhart's performance as Two-Face in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight was for me the only element of interest in that bloated, overserious megaproduction (for the record, I thought Heath Ledger as the Joker did well in a badly underwritten role)--he managed to locate some human angst under the medium-rare charcoal-grilled porterhouse makeup.

Eckhart gives the picture more heart and heft than it deserves, I think; he pulls off the unlikely premise of a man who uses his wife's death to sell motivational books, tapes, workshops; he even pulls off the unlikelier premise that the man feels ambivalent about exploiting his wife's death this way. The way Camp's camera explores Eckhart's chiseled face you can tell there's so much unspoken feeling jammed up just behind it wouldn't take much for the facade to crack; it was the only thread of much-needed tension in the picture and helped keep me awake, even mildly interested.

Might throw in that the hero's most romantic gesture, the release of a cockatiel into the wild, may not have been a wise move as the bird is native to the wetlands of Australia and will probably not survive the chilly Seattle weather (well, not for long), much less nearby predators--but maybe that's me. And if my petty worries about the fate of a supporting animal character don't exactly thrill you either, well...


Jaime said...

Noel, whenever I read the note about "no animals were harmed in the making of this film," etc., I always imagine the filmmakers setting the animals free at the end of the shoot, blissfully unaware that the environment is all wrong for the specific animal. Hopefully I am wrong!

There's a great joke on THE SIMPSONS where Lisa frees an adorable little mouse (or something similar) but is oblivious to the owl that swoops down and devours the little fella.

Noel Vera said...

Bottom line, I don't really care about animals--species matter more for me. I read somewhere once that the pet industry is in the billions of dollars, and that money for the homeless and poor is in the millions at most. What, animals are treated better than people? That's truly fucked up.