movie film review | chris tookey
death by raspberry
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  A Lot Like Love (2005)

There are two bare essentials for a good romantic comedy. One is that it should make you laugh or, at least, smile. Secondly, you’ve got to like the couple, and hope they end up together.
The latest big-budget offering from Hollywood bravely challenges both conventions by offering us not only a ruthlessly smile-free experience, but a couple so inane, unpleasant and yobbish that they could make you suicidal about the future of the human race.
We first encounter our loving couple “seven years ago” on a flight from Los Angeles to New York when, without a word of dialogue, ageing goth chick Emily (Amanda Peet) breaks in on Oliver (Ashton Kutcher), a total stranger who looks about 18, in an aircraft lavatory and has unsafe sex with him. The film-makers want us to think this is cute behaviour. In reality, it tells us two things: she’s a slut, and he’s a fool.
Once in New York, Emily and Oliver meet by accident – the Big Apple’s a tiny place, so why not? - whereupon they make a pact. She’ll contact him in six years to find out if his ultra-straight “life plan” – to have a successful job, a house and a beautiful wife – has come true. She chain-smokes, drinks excessively and has no plans, which the film-makers find charmingly quirky, instead of mildly distressing in a woman of her age. She doesn’t look a day under 33 which, with her morals, makes her old enough to be his mother.
Three years on, Emily is an out-of-work actress. She’s been dumped very sensibly by her screenwriter boyfriend, and she’s looking for someone to hump on New Year’s Eve. Naturally, she contacts Oliver and they rip each other’s clothes off, but tragically he has to leave in the morning for San Francisco, where he’s setting up a dot com business.
Two years on, they meet again. This time, Oliver’s been dumped by his live-in girlfriend (who, I imagine, is hoping to trade upwards and find an eligible chimpanzee) and he’s looking for someone new to bonk - or, failing that, Emily. She, delightful free spirit that she is, cheers him up by sticking straws up her nose (don’t try that at home, children, you might poke out your brain, just like Emily clearly has).
In a restaurant sequence that is supposed to leave us helpless with hilarity, she spits water at him, and he spits water at her! Then they change seats and… spit at each other in the opposite direction!! Then she pretends to choke on her food at the table and die, and he… totally ignores her!!! Apparently, the film-makers regard this not as annoying exhibitionism on her part and callous irresponsibility on his, but as normal dating behaviour.
Later, Emily and Oliver go on a drive, talk with their mouths not just full of junk food but wide, wide open (bless ‘em, they’re so uninhibited)! They sing together to the radio (out of tune – so sweet)!! And in a moment of sublime slapstick inspiration he even sticks a pair of dark glasses up his nose!!! Yes, it’s that witty.
At around this point, they stray into the Joshua Tree National Park and stop the car, and, for a joyous moment or two, I hoped they might be attacked and eaten by bears, but no such luck. Once they’ve consummated their lust, he’s off to New York to pitch his dot com concern to a venture capital company, which he does so incompetently you wonder how he was able to find New York, let alone land the finance.
I could go on, but you get the idea. This is one of those movies where you desperately hope the leading couple won’t get together, because you fear for their unborn children.
Amanda Peet wrestles with a character who has no redeeming characteristics. She’s meant to be a free spirit, like Melanie Griffith in Something Wild, or Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Instead, she comes across as neurotically self-absorbed and immature, with a nasty, aggressive side that is never acknowledged, let alone explored. At one point, for instance, she drives dangerously close behind an elderly woman driver, passes her and yells wittily ''Get off the road, Grandma!" She’s like a less amiable, better-mannered Wayne Rooney.
Still, at least she has character traits. Ashton Kutcher plays a tiresome oaf who doesn’t do or say anything interesting or funny over a period of seven years. Compared with this guy, Peter Andre is Tom Stoppard.
The stinker of a script can be blamed on Colin Patrick Lynch. So numerous are the interruptions of middle-of-the-road rock music that it must have run all of 20 pages. The apathetic direction is by Nigel Cole, the British director, who seems to have spent the shoot holding his nose and looking away.
The really troubling aspect of A Lot Like Love is that it has already done well in the United States, and looks certain to turn a profit. Since it has no discernible merits other than an eagerness to ingratiate itself with fools and sluts (which hardly marks it out as anything extraordinary), its level of acceptance can be attributed only to one thing: the Ashton Kutcher phenomenon.
Ashton recently claimed to have lived 6,000 years through reincarnation, but is probably more widely known as the 27 year-old toyboy of Demi Moore. He first made an impact in the cinema as one of the two leads in Dude, Where’s My Car? (2000), a comedy which became decreasingly amusing as the awful realisation dawned that the anti-heroes' brainless, sexist behaviour was meant to be charming.
Three years later, he surpassed this at the box office with the most boorish romantic comedy of 2003 not to star Adam Sandler. It was called Just Married, in which Ashton unaccountably won young American hearts as a crude, arrogant, violent, racist sports fan whose idea of fun on honeymoon in Venice was to watch baseball on TV in an American bar.
A year ago, Ashton attempted unsuccessfully to prove his versatility with The Butterfly Effect (a shocker that he proudly claimed to have “executive produced”), in which he played – keep a straight face while I’m telling you this - a troubled mathematics genius.
After that debacle, Ashton reverted to the oafish character his fans like best, and brought us one of the year’s most abject comedies, Guess Who?, a witless remake of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, with Mr Kutcher adventurously cast in the Sidney Poitier role. A Lot Like Love is his worst film yet (at least The Butterfly Effect raised a few unintentional laughs). Terrifyingly, its success suggests there will be much, much more of Mr Kutcher to come.
(Chris Tookey, Daily Mail)
It's a good idea for a movie - that movie being When Harry Met Sally, which came out in 1989. A Lot Like Love is a lot like Harry, except that the new film's characters are grating, the dialogue inane, and the romance tedious... Oliver and Emily play relationship tag for a number of years, with hairstyles, period pop songs, and Emily's persona changing throughout. By the fourth act she's a successful photographer, and the only common thread is a flaky self-absorption that would have most men signaling for the check within minutes... As for Kutcher, the less said the better. He has yet to give a performance that isn't a dude-acious commentary on his own unwillingness to give a performance, and what once looked like slacker irony is more and more plainly lack of ability.
(Ty Burr, Boston Globe)
The big screen doesn't seem to like Kutcher much, or even to GET him, whatever there is to get.
(Stephanie Zacharek,
Too often, the script collapses into what feels like improvisation, in which the characters find a kind of common ground: Infantilism.
(Liam Lacey, Toronto Globe and Mail)
A Lot Like Love is, well, a lot like many other movies. It's also a lot like having your eyeballs seared by a propane flame - in a bad way.
(Marc Mohan, Portland Oregonian)
In not one but two scenes we are asked to laugh because the actors have inserted objects into their nostrils. Request denied.
(Kyle Smith, New York Post)
To call A Lot like Love dead in the water is an insult to water.
(Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times)

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