Ashton Kutcher isn’t a great actor. Let’s face it — he isn’t going to win any acting awards anytime in the near future. However he is quite competent at playing variations of Kelso — the character that made him famous on the hit FOX series ‘That 70’s Show.’ Kelso is bumbling, inept and manages to possess an uncanny combination of insecurity and confidence. Kutcher’s film roles don’t stray much from that formula and his character Oliver in his new movie ‘A Lot Like Love’ isn’t an exception to the rule. While being light-years ahead of Kelso in the intelligence department he has all the other characteristics that make him just as endearing and lovable and fun to watch.
Amanda Peet’s character Emily is just as bumbling, inept and simultaneously sure and unsure of herself as Oliver. The relationship that develops between the two works because they seem like twin souls that were destined to meet and no amount of time or separation will change the fact that they are made for each other. The movie also works because the chemistry between Kutcher and Peet is palpable and one could easily believe that the two would make a great couple off screen as well.
Taking place over a seven year span Emily and Oliver have several short and not so chance encounters that take place after an initial chance and very memorable meeting on a plane as they travel from Los Angeles to New York. Unlike most romantic comedies, their relationship is allowed to develop over the course of the plot, and while they never have that much time together their initial friendship and later romance seems natural and believable.
The film could have easily fallen into the trap of many romantic comedies that force the audience to believe that two completely different individuals manage to fall madly in love with each other in a matter of days, despite overwhelming odds and all the obvious signs that they are completely wrong for each other. Hell, in many romantic comedies the characters know they are in love long before the audience can figure out why they even like each other let alone are in love. In ‘A Lot Like Love,’ the audience recognizes how right the characters are for one another before they are willing to make such an admission to themselves. Watching Oliver and Emily struggle with their pride and plans, and the natural fear that comes with putting your heart on the line, is sweet and endearing and tugs at your heartstrings without feeling forced or contrived.
The movie also doesn’t shy away from how imperfect the characters are. Emily has a problem with being by herself and has to confirm she “still has it” by hooking up with the first guy she meets when a relationship has ended. And Oliver doesn’t know how to live in the moment and must plan every aspect of his life well in advance or he is unable to function. Their flaws are realistic and they experience many of the problems young twenty somethings face as they try to find their way in life and love which adds to the convincing nature of the story and its characters.
The movie isn’t perfect. There’s some dialogue that I could have lived without and the attempt by Oliver to get Emily back via a musical serenade outside of her home is an over-used movie device that has seemed cliched ever since John Cusack’s boom box blasted out Peter Gabriel on the lawn of Ione Skye’s house in ‘Say Anything.’
But I will admit I was pleasantly surprised at how entertaining I found ‘A Lot Like Love.’ I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a smart, funny, innovative comedy about looking for, finding, and knowing when to take hold of the love that lies right within your grasp.
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