The arrival of fall is a more reliable indicator of the serious subject matter awaiting moviegoers than the misleading title of this film.
You would be fooled if you are expecting a feel-good, romantic comedy. This powerful emotional drama is about finding closure and moving on after the death of a loved one.
Burke Ryan (Aaron Eckhart from “The Dark Knight”) wrote the best-selling book “A-Okay!” to help him cope with survivor guilt after the loss of his beloved wife. He travels around the country giving seminars to help others deal with their grief and begin the healing process. The contrast between his charismatic public persona and his despondency behind closed doors is startling.
Burke bumps into Eloise (Jennifer Aniston from “Marley & Me”), a single florist, during a weekend appearance at his sold-out therapy sessions in Seattle. Eloise has a history of choosing the wrong men to get involved with romantically. She always ends up being hurt and disappointed. She tries to fend off his flirtatious advances by pretending to be deaf. However, there is an inexplicable magnetic attraction. They start hanging out and enjoying each other’s company.
Eloise becomes a catalyst in getting Burke to realize that he needs to practice what he preaches. The movie shows that letting go of the past and moving forward are difficult and emotionally draining steps.
Screenwriters Brandon Camp (who also directed) and Mike Thompson break the mold with a story told with sincerity and honesty. You will want to have your tissues ready for the powerful emotional punch delivered by this film.
Eckhart and Aniston possess all the right stuff with a comfortable and satisfying on-screen chemistry. Eckhart really shows off his acting chops and demonstrates star power while his character makes a profound transformation. The adorable Aniston shows compassion and concern for this handsome man who can’t seem to express his feelings.
The strong supporting cast includes Martin Sheen (“The West Wing”) as Burke’s father-in-law; Judy Greer (“27 Dresses” and “13 Going on 30”) as Eloise’s gossipy employee; Dan Fogler (“School for Scoundrels”) as Burke’s manager and John Carroll Lynch (the profanity-spewing barber in “Gran Torino”) as a grieving father.
Additional strengths of the movie are the ear-pleasing soundtrack that reflects the variety of emotional moods and the scenic backdrop of Seattle (most of the location shots were actually filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia).
Aside from a poor title choice (originally the moniker was “Brand New Day”), the only distracting drawback is the shamelessly obvious product placement of a hotel chain, cable service provider, automobile brand, piano maker and home improvement megastore.
A scene-stealing cockatoo named Rocky provides some comedic relief from the mature adult themes. An unexpected side benefit is a vocabulary lesson with exposure to three lengthy and nearly unpronounceable words complete with dictionary definitions that will give you the wherewithal to impress friends and work colleagues.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"