A Lot Like Love
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Nigel Cole
scr Colin Patrick Lynch
with Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kal Penn, Kathryn Hahn, Ty Giordano, Taryn Manning, Jeremy Sisto, Gabriel Mann, Ali Larter, Josh Stamberg, Melissa van der Schyff, Moon Bloodgood
release US 22.Apr.05,
UK 24.Jun.05
05/US Touchstone 1h47

Seven-year itch: Peet and Kutcher

kutcher peet penn

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A Lot Like Love A bracingly original tone makes this film stand out from all those romantic comedy clones. It's strikingly well shot and acted, without resorting to sitcom silliness or hyperactive inanity. Then just when it should end on a sigh, it spirals into the same old stupidity.

Oliver (Kutcher) and Emily (Peet) meet on a Los Angeles-to-New York flight that produces an instant spark between them. A chance meeting in Manhattan (!) cements their bond, but the sweetly goofy Oliver has a strict five-year plan to make his fortune before finding a girl and settling down, while the coolly aloof Emily feels he's not quite right for her. Over the next seven years they'll meet again--and again--as their life paths refuse to take them where they expect to go.

The end isn't in doubt; it's a romantic comedy after all. But the humour is of the gentle, grounded variety rather than snappy-wacky movie style, so the film runs in recognisable rhythms of conversation and relationships. The cast and crew make this work beautifully--the writing, directing and acting all have a warm authenticity. Despite a reliance on coincidence, the plot is involving and full of superb sequences that are hilarious and/or yearningly passionate. Both Kutcher and Peet create intriguingly complex characters who are charming, funny and touching, with strong chemistry between them. And the supporting cast is excellent, adding nice texture to the story.

The idea is that we over-plan our lives, and as a result miss love when it appears. Which makes the film's farcical epilogue seem even more painfully tacked on, forcing the characters to leap to wrong conclusions and abandon their personalities for a few madcap scenes. It's the kind of contrived and false conclusion created by and for test audiences, and until it kicks in (there's a moment in an art gallery when it starts), this is one of the more original film romances out there--When Harry Met Sally for the 21st century. So it's even more of a pity that it takes such a corny, cheap route to the lovely final moment.

cert PG themes, some language 20.Apr.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall