The somber Love Happens doesn't have much going for it

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Rainy Seattle is an appropriate setting for Love Happens, writer-director Brandon Camp’s somber romance about a widowed psychologist named Burke (Aaron Eckhart) who has channeled his grief into a career as a popular self-help author and bereavement guru. In Seattle to lead a seminar, he meets charmingly eccentric florist Eloise (Jennifer Aniston, playing a somnambulant version of her usual unlucky-in-love heroine). Burke himself needs healing, and with Eloise’s help, he finally confronts his own loss. There may be a good story in this — certainly Dr. Phil-type celebrity is an area ripe for satire — but the movie avoids anything that interesting; its clumsy scripting, tentative direction and inconsistent characters evoke not sympathy, but vague discomfort. The capable cast (including Martin Sheen as Burke’s aggrieved father-in-law, Dan Fogler as his manager) is so misused you can only feel sorry for all concerned, except when pity is surpassed by annoyance at the overt product placement (Gray Goose Vodka, Qwest Communications), contrived sentimentality alongside gauche grief jokes, and silly scenes like the one in which Burke breaks into his in-laws’ house to steal his late wife’s cockatoo (oddly referred to as a parrot). For what it’s worth, the movie does feature some lovely Seattle cityscapes. **

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