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Alex Stroup, editor

A Lot Like Love

This generation's When Harry Met Sally?

Friday, April 22, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor

A Lot Like Love is a movie that has some baggage when you walk into the theater. One star is best known for playing a television idiot that makes Woody from Cheers look bright (or is he best known for getting awfully familiar with Demi Moore?). The other has always been at her best when playing, if you'll excuse the term, ballbusters.

Combine this with a story that sounds like a combination of two wonderful movies (Before Sunset and When Harry Met Sally) and just entering the theater it seems too much to ask for something more than just another bland romantic comedy by actors in the wrong type of movie.

© Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Yet A Lot Like Love defied my attempts to dislike it without giving it a chance. Leaving the theater, all I knew was that I had enjoyed it and for the life of me I couldn't (and still don't, really) understand why. It is a romantic comedy that is neither particularly romantic nor comedic. It really boils down to the fact that Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet fill out two characters that seem real, even if their story isn't compelling.

The movie follows a seven–year period from 1998 to current day in which Emily (Peet) and Oliver (Kutcher) carom off of each other at significant moments in the life of each. As you'd expect, with each encounter they realize a bit more that they're meant for each other.

As a series of vignettes on how we grow into adulthood (the characters age from around 22 to almost 30), the movie is unexpectedly compelling. Also important is the exploration of how incidental relationships can have an outsized impact in times of personal crisis. The only flaw is that each step in the sequence involves the same people and they're inextricably marching towards love; a love that seems somewhat shallow when you think on the fact that they've spent all of three days together—total—over seven years, and yet they managed to have sex twice.

I think I like the movie that director Nigel Cole unintentionally made much better than the surface movie he was trying to make.

The backdrop of the movie through those seven years is the dot–com boom and bust cycle as Oliver pursues Web–based wealth selling diapers online. The cycle Oliver takes is about 18 months off from when it would have really happened (presumably to help match the characters age to Kutcher), but Colin Patrick Lynch's screenplay well captures the combination of ambition and cluelessness that spawned so many multi–million dollar flops. Kutcher mostly does a fine job throwing off the mantle of That '70s Show and gives an honest, real performance.

More surprising is Amanda Peet, who mostly avoids the smirk she has that is so dismissive of others and finds a softer center that allows you to believe her uncertainty about the future and hurt at being dumped by a boyfriend. Early on she fails to pull off the punk 22–year–old of the script (looking both too old and too much the poseur) but that isn't so much her fault, and later in the movie she carries several scenes.

As I said before, the movie doesn't seem to focus too much on either romance or comedy. The comedy is more situational that slapstick and more likely to result in smiles than laughter. Romantically it is subjective, and likely will work better for younger viewers (for whom love is more about the moment of passion than of the development of closeness).

Parents probably won't like the movie's casual attitudes towards sex, but otherwise things are not graphic and the language is pretty tame. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly entertained me so effectively about the movie, but I was definitely in a good mood when I left. Sometimes that is all you can ask for from a movie.

On an unrelated note, I wanted to let you know about a movie that may slip under the radar of some. When I was in Singapore earlier this year, I happened to catch Kung Fu Hustle, which was in its original release in Asia. I had a wonderful time and hoped Americans would eventually get a chance to see it. I didn't know at the time that it already had a distribution deal and just four months later you all get the chance to see it.

It isn't for everybody. It is a satire of martial arts movies. Like all good satire, though, it both revels in and explodes the conventions of the genre. If you have any interest in martial arts movies, you should check this out. Then when you get home go look up some of the earlier movies from director/star Stephen Chow (such as Shaolin Soccer and The King of Comedy).

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.


A Lot Like Love is a Touchstone Pictures release

Wide theatrical release: Friday, April 22, 2005

Directed by Nigel Cole.

Screenplay by Colin Patrick Lynch.

Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet

Rated PG–13 for sexual content, nudity and language

Running time: 107 minutes

Alex's Rating: 7 out of 10



Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted “information junkie,” Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.

Click here to contact Alex.


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