Romantic comedy with a heavy message

Love Happens announces itself as a romantic comedy but doesn't speak the language of love. Instead, it trades in the slogans of self-help procedural.

The film unfolds during a weekend seminar in Seattle where Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart), mental-health guru, belatedly swallows advice he dispenses to others.

Burke is one of those publicly charismatic, privately brooding fellows who preaches what he cannot practice. Though he counsels others to accept that there is life after a loved one's death, Burke is in prolonged mourning for his late wife.

For three years he hasn't even looked at another woman - until he spies Eloise (Jennifer Aniston), the long-stemmed florist whose colorful arrangements adorn the hotel where he's booked. Suddenly, Burke is intrigued.

Eloise is not. Until she is. Until she's not again. Until Burke can be honest with himself - and her.

This is surely the first movie in which the metaphor for the hero's return to mental health is (literally) setting free his caged cockatoo. Burke knows why the caged bird squawks.

Brandon Camp's film has a ping-pongy rhythm and spin suitable for romantic comedy but rather lighthearted for the emotional load it drops.

Despite its two appealing leads, Love Happens is, as the kids say, not happening.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at

Love Happens

Directed by Brandon Camp. With Sasha Alexander, Anne Marie DeLuise, Gina Holden, Aaron Eckhart, Joe Anderson, Judy Greer, Martin Sheen, Jennifer Aniston, Brandon Jay McLaren, Dan Fogler. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 1 hours, 49 minutes.

Parent's guide: PG-13 (for some language including sexual references).