Theres nothing better than a great romance... to ruin a perfectly good friendship.
Running Time: 107 minutes
US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: PG
Country: United States
When college graduate Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) and grunge kid Emily (Amanda Peet) spot each other at the airport, there is an instant attraction, and they quickly join the mile high club. Recognising, however, their incompatability – he is ambitious, geeky and blandly conventional, while she is smart, sassy and free-spirited – they part company after spending a day together shooting photographs. Over the next seven years, their paths occasionally cross and their friendship deepens – but the moment never seems right for anything more to develop, until finally each discovers that the other is getting married, with all the predictable rom-com confusion and soul-searchings.
Like the relationship that it traces, Nigel Cole’s ‘A Lot Like Love’ could be characterised as a series of missed opportunities. The first segment, in which Emily repeatedly knocks back Oliver’s gormless advances with a set of effortlessly barbed put-downs (and this AFTER she has had sex with him), promises a film that will bristle with stark personality contrasts and chalk-and-cheese banter – but in fact at their very next meeting it becomes as clear apparently to them as to us that they are made for each other, with only circumstance, rather than character, getting in the way of their living happily ever after. They may be a not-quite couple who drift in and out of one another’s lives (and share a pivotal moment at a New Year’s bash), but the tensions between them are far less mesmerisingly spiky than their equivalent in When Harry Met Sally.
The different photographs which Oliver and Emily take of one another weave a significant motif through the film – for ‘A Lot Like Love’ is structured as a relationship unfolding in ‘snapshot’ moments. Yet if Emily’s ‘grunge’ look at the beginning holds out the promise that the non-couple’s staggered entanglement will reflect seismic cultural shifts from the late nineties to the early noughties, then what follows is bound to be disappointing. Apart from the rise and fall of Oliver’s dot.com venture, there is precious little commentary on the changing times. The pair’s insulation from the rest of the world is encapsulated in Emily’s experiments with photographic overexposure – one shot that she takes features the couple in a static, naked embrace while the night sky whizzes past in a blur. Watching their slow dance through time, you would certainly never know that Clinton has been succeeded by Bush in the Presidency, or that the Twin Towers have fallen – elements that arguably would be out of place in a romantic comedy, but whose complete absence leaves the impression that the film’s contemporary seven-year timeline has little real point to it.
Still, ‘A Lot Like Love’ remains eminently watchable thanks to the charisma and chemistry of its two leads. Amanda Peet in particular, who has repeatedly outshone bigger name stars in films as varied as ‘The Whole Nine Yards’, Igby Goes Down, High Crimes and Changing Lanes, at last gets a principal part, and wastes no time turning a potentially one-dimensional rôle into someone believably complicated. So even if ‘A Lot Like Love’ represents seven years of lost moments and bad luck, at least the time passes amiably enough.
It's Got: Internet diapers, lovelorn vampires, and - rather refreshingly for a romantic comedy - a relationship that begins with sex and ends with love rather than the other way round.
It Needs: To deliver more on its initial promises - the seven-year structure seems particularly pointless.
Charming enough snapshots of a seven-year relationship that, thanks to missed opportunities, never quite gets off the ground.