A Lot Like Love
If there's one thing I've learned about romantic comedies in a lifetime of going to the movies, it's that they have to have romance and they have to have comedy. They might possibly, just possibly, get by with only one of the two, but not with neither. And the classic neither is the new Ashton Kutcher-Amanda Peet film "A Lot Like Love," in which two actors who should never even be in the same movie together are stuck for almost two hours pretending that they care for each other.
The story, if we can call it that, takes place over seven years. Oliver (Kutcher) and Emily (Peet) meet for a moment in the L.A. airport, board the same flight, and somewhere over the Rockies join the mile-high club. That's enough for Emily but Oliver won't let go. The film's writer, Colin Patrick Lynch, then has them meet glancingly over the next seven years at moments when one or the other is just entering or leaving another relationship. There are titles that announce: Three Years Later. Two Years Later. And so on. Is this cute? Funny? Romantic? Not yet, although the tedium we feel in the audience starts to remind us of everything that's gone wrong in our own relationships.
Peet, one of the most versatile actresses in films today - remember that braying laugh in "The Whole Nine Yards," and the sad, addicted artist in "Igby Goes Down?" - is given the job here of caring for a man who might as well have come from another planet. She and Kutcher are burdened with a script that has ruled out even the most commonplace moments of real life; they're on screen only to find ways of leaving each other, without having taken a minute to find anything worthwhile together first.
Kutcher, who has yet to show any acting chops at all, is the big, slow-witted innocent with a goofy smile whom we and Emily are expected to love simply because he's, well, lovable. Over the seven years he starts an internet business, gets rich, goes broke, stays lovable. Director Nigel Cole keeps trying to surprise us with little shocks: for one episode, at around year 6, we see Peet putting a baby down. Uh-oh, is it hers? Did she really marry that other guy? No, of course not; it's her friend's baby. And the revelation in the final shot of the film is so annoying you want to throw something at the screen. Maybe the director.