A Lot Like Love

Well, give them credit for trying something different. A Lot Like Love is a romantic comedy that tries to be a bit more serious. The film spans seven years, and recounts the slow realization of Emily Friehl (Amanda Peet, Melinda and Melinda, The Whole Ten Yards) and Oliver Martin (Ashton Kutcher, Guess Who, The Butterfly Effect) that they are perfect for each other. Standing in the way of a romance are boyfriends, girlfriends, fiances, fiancees, and whole states. The first time they met was on a plane from New York, where Emily introduced Oliver to the mile high club. They had a wonderful time together wandering New York, and went their separate ways.

Three years later, Emily, freshly dumped, calls Oliver, and the two meet again. The problem is that Oliver is about to move to San Francisco. It's the late nineties, the internet is booming, and Oliver wants to open his own business. The same thing happens a few more times, each time with an additional obstacle, and plenty of manufactured romantic moments (Kutcher playing a guitar in an apartment complex, or kissing Emily just in time for the new year). Because of the way the film is structured, director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls, Saving Grace) gives a Cliff's Notes version of a typical movie relationship. It never feels like Emily and Oliver know each other too well. In fact, some of the times they meet are merely to get over a bad breakup rather than see the other person.

The unique element in A Lot Like Love is how screenwriter Colin Patrick Lynch has the two principals mature over the course of the film. The people they are at the end really seem older and more grounded than the people they were at the beginning, and it's more than just different hair and clothes. Oliver begins as a dorky, cocky college grad, and eventually mellows and becomes a bit more GQ. Also, because of his business ups and downs, Oliver is a lot more grounded. At the beginning of A Lot Like Love, Emily is more of a free spirit. Over the years, she gets a job, and achieves a much stabler lifestyle.

Complementing the character changes are the performances from Peet and Kutcher. Peet is the more interesting one - she seems to be making a concerted effort to take more challenging roles. Although the role of Emily isn't exactly "challenging," Peet invests a good deal of effort into it, making Emily's emotional growth credible. Kutcher does well by picking another role suited to his strengths, being the typical normal guy-next-door. He falters when the story calls for Oliver to show some real emotion. The real problem comes from the way that Cole and Lynch try to keep them apart artificially. They want to show how two people destined for each other will eventually find a way to come together. It's a very sweet idea, but all of the obstacles cause it to feel like an extended soap opera.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sexual content, nudity, and language.

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