“You don't deserve what you put yourself through.”
Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart star as couple who find solace and love amid life tragedies in this appealing romantic drama. Set in Seattle, Aniston plays a florist named Eloise who encounters an author named Burke, played by Eckhart. Burke is a grief expert who engages people with an “A-OK” tagline, tells people how to feel, and guides them in grief yet needs someone tell him how to feel about his own personal tragedy.
“Funerals are important rituals. They're not only recognition that a person has died; they're recognition that a person has lived,” Burke says. He doesn’t sugarcoat the process and encourages people to feel the loss. The emotional elements expand as Burke, a widower, continues his seminar help for others, including a near walkout named Walter, played by familiar face John Carroll Lynch. Burke slowly realizes his own wounds have not completely healed, especially after a marketing meeting where a firm seeks to franchise Burke’s self-help "mojo" with themes like “finally, a loss to feel good about.”
He gets some good support from his agent (Dan Fogler) who occasionally asks Burke, “Do you want this?” but Eloise finds the vital spots without being judgmental. Burke meets Eloise by chance through his observational skills, then she eventually uncovers his layers with some initial comedy and clever gender jabs.
Burke’s encounter with Eloise leads to an unpredictable relationship, which injects some refreshing originality into the romance genre, with heartfelt comedy amid great cinematography. Filmmakers even incorporate some special effects for apparent economic savings and logistical purposes.
Eloise views her life as “an experiment in bad decisions,” which buffers against Burke’s increasingly forceful view where everyone has to “try hard enough.” The introduction of Eloise’s mom, played by Julie Hagerty, seems trivial at first, but represents an important sequence opening a door into Burke’s private life.
Eloise’s somewhat whimsical life view is shared with her co-worker Marty, played by Judy Greer. Eloise shares her more intimate feelings with Burke, who eventually becomes a flower store regular. They bond over unwanted and lost flower messages (a.k.a. “life on a 3 x 5”) or words like "poppy-ismic," then progress to a group outing with Marty and, unintentionally, Lane.
Greer and Fogler have basic “best friend” supporting roles while Martin Sheen plays Burke’s well-meaning father-in-law who travels a similar healing path as Burke addresses his loss. This film has solid romance and admirable themes including a stirring show of support. Life isn’t as simple as “if people look and ask for help, they can get it.” The characters come to terms with their lives amid predictable elements like solace, family issues, and private thoughts. The story basically boils down to getting over our own assumptions, preconceptions, and other hang-ups.
Music montages typically appear among scene breaks and a sequence where Eloise and Burke soak up some Seattle sights including the bubble gum wall and the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee. Composer Christopher Young’s score, releasing on CD February 23, and a special exterior Rogue Wave concert sequence are highlights among the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound mix. English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
Bonus features include 13 minutes of deleted scenes, feature commentary with director Brandon Camp, executive producer Richard Solomon, and co-writer/producer Mike Thompson, plus a three-minute featurette on the special effects titled “Giving Romance a New Look”, which is a basic “before and after” presentation where audiences see the green screen staging eventually morphed into the final segments, done by Mr. X. Inc. Filmmakers give considerable credit to the cast and crew, especially Eckhart who makes a good centerpiece among a recognizable cast. Brandon Camp makes a great feature directorial debut with memorable camera work, especially a shot with Eckhart on the Space Needle. Recommended with a few reservations and rated PG-13 for language including sexual references. Blu-ray also available.