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A Lot Like Love Review

By Shawn McKenzie 04/22/2005

I think that I’m in the minority in saying that I like Ashton Kutcher.  I’ve always found him funny in FOX’s “That ‘70s Show” and MTV’s “Punk’d,” and last year he impressed me dramatically with the sci-fi thriller The Butterfly Effect.  If there is any fault with his latest movie, A Lot Like Love, is that it’s a little bit too similar plot-wise to 1989’s When Harry Met Sally and 2001’s Serendipity.  Fortunately, those two movies happen to be my two of my favorite chick flicks of all time.

Seven years ago (I’m placing it around 1996, based on the music in the background and the styles of their clothes), recent college graduate Oliver Martin (Kutcher) is flying from Los Angeles to New York to meet with his deaf brother, Graham (Ty Giordano), who’s in law school.  He is also going to meet Graham’s girlfriend Carol (Melissa van der Schyff), whom Graham intends to marry.  While waiting in the terminal at LAX for his flight, Oliver sees Emily Friehl (Amanda Peet) break up with her boyfriend.  He thinks that she is kind of cute, and she notices him as well, but he doesn’t think much about it.  While on the plane, he goes to the bathroom, and she knocks on the door.  When he answers, she essentially attacks him sexually (which he was more than willing to have done to him by her) and they join the Mile High Club together.  She is on this trip to see her dad Brent (James Read) and stepmom Christine (Molly Cheek), but she isn’t really excited about it.  Oliver introduces himself after their little fling, but Emily stops him, saying that they will ruin it if they talk any more.  The next day, Oliver coincidentally runs into her again, and she uses his presence to get out of having to be with Brent and Christine, saying that Oliver was terminally ill and she wanted to spend a little time with him before he dies.  They hang out all day together in the city, and they end up in a bar, where he bets her $50 that he will be a big success in six years selling diapers (he has a plan to sell them over the Internet.)  He also bets that he will be married to a beautiful woman within those seven years.  Emily mocks him, thinking that he won’t be able to fulfill this ambitious dream.  He says that he will be able to as soon as he gets his “ducks in line,” and to prove it, he gives Emily his parents’ phone number to call and see if he is right (he should be moved out of his parents’ house by then.)  She takes him up on the bet, and they go their separate ways.  Three years later, Emily is an actress living with her boyfriend Peter (Gabriel Mann) in L.A.  Peter dumps her, right before the turn-of-the-century New Year, and she is a little down.  She sees the napkin that Oliver had written his parents’ phone number down on, and, after consulting her two best friends Michelle (Kathryn Hahn) and Gina (Ali Larter), decides to give him a call.  Emily is a little surprised to find out that he is still living with his mom Diane (Amy Aquino), his dad Stephen (Holmes Osborne), and his bratty little sister Ellen (Taryn Manning.)  He is indeed selling diapers over the Internet in a business he started called Diaperush.com with his business partner Jeeter (Kal Penn), and they are on the verge of going public.  Emily and Oliver go to the New Year’s party where they run into Michelle and her husband Michael (Josh Stamberg), but they also run into Peter and some other girl.  She is upset, but Oliver saves her by giving her a New Year’s kiss (awww.)  They spend a little more time together, but before they separate again, he piques her interest in photography along the way.  Two years later, Oliver has moved to San Francisco and he is a success in his career, but his personal life is not doing so well.  His girlfriend Bridget (Moon Bloodgood) has just dumped him, so he takes a couple of days off, drives down to L.A., and visits Emily, who is now a photographer.  Meanwhile, Emily had met a guy named Ben Miller (Jeremy Sisto) in a CD shop, and they have begun to date.  When Oliver shows up at Emily’s doorstep, they go on a road trip together, hang out in the desert, and fool around in the back of his car.  Despite having had sex, she tells him that she is dating someone, so the two go their separate ways again.  After that, they have their ups and downs professionally and personally throughout the next couple of years, and they always wonder why they don’t become a couple for real.

Nigel Cole directed this movie, and it’s his first American one.  He previously did two British comedies called Saving Grace and Calendar Girls, the latter one I absolutely loved.  It’s no surprise then that I liked this movie.  Actually…maybe I’m jumping the gun here.  I was initially concerned that I wasn’t going to like it, because I’ve been burned by a string of chick flicks lately.  It didn’t help matters much that this movie came only a few weeks after the release of Kutcher’s last movie, Guess Who, so maybe I was on Kutcher burnout (though I did like Guess Who.)  I also didn’t know much at all what this movie was about, so I was glad to see that it liberally took from the plotline of When Harry Met Sally (I can enjoy a movie which does that if the movie copied is a great one, like all of those Die Hard rip-off movies that I can’t get enough of.)

Kutcher and Peet had some unexpected chemistry together.  Throughout the years portrayed in the movie, I really felt that they became comfortable with one another, and their relationship seemed real.  As far as the supporting characters went, no one really wowed me.  Almost all of them were in the movie way too shortly, and they all acted just as plot devices.  Kutcher’s relationship with Giordano was charming, but almost felt pointless.  Manning was amusing in her brief scenes, but she too almost felt pointless.  Everyone else was almost forgettable.

I really liked A Lot Like Love, and I would highly recommend it to see on Date Night with your significant other.  Despite a few problems with the supporting cast and an ending I predicted a mile away, it was good.  Cole is doing great here in America, and I hope that he makes more American films.  As for Kutcher, I hope someday he will be taken more seriously as an actor, because I am already a fan.

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