Film

A Lot Like Love (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

Any movie that engineers a comic hijinksy highlight around Amanda Peet smacking herself into a glass door is not thinking too far beyond surfaces.


A Lot Like Love

Director: Nigel Cole
Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Kal Penn, Ali Larter, Taryn Manning
Distributor: Buena Vista
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-04-22
Amazon affiliate

Amanda Peet is a survivor. She's spunky and attractive, an inventive performer who's always worth watching even in the weak movies she's made. Indeed, she has yet to appear in a good movie. Still, she consistently buoys middling films (Something's Gotta Give [2003]), and memorably feisty even in dreck (Changing Lanes [2002] or Whipped [2000]). (Granted, there's not one good thing to say about The Whole Ten Yards.) In her latest romantic comedy, costarring with boy-of-the-moment Ashton Kutcher, she's yet again charming, just-edgy-enough, and appropriately seductive.

Still, her vehicle this time, A Lot Like Love, is bungling and predictable. Its initial anti-cliché rhythms bode almost well: funky girl Emily (Peet) and straight boy Oliver (Kutcher) meet less-than-cute on a plane (they use the bathroom for a brief, apparently wordless mile-high clubby tryst), part for years, reconnect and reevaluate themselves and their sex-buddy friendship more than once. Throughout these erratic meetings, their banter ranges from cryptic to slightly annoying, as they coyly (or childishly) hold back from making obvious declarations of love or self.

During one of several "let's break down the meaning of our non-romance" chats, Emily wonders what it is about Oliver that seems remotely attractive. An overly straight sort, he's her ostensible opposite, but he's also warm and affectionate, completely ready to devote himself to her from jump. Too bad: following a brief glimpse at her dating habits (two boyfriends, neither memorable except as they leave her), you see that she tends to hook up with socially irresponsible and emotionally unavailable types. And so, as she gazes at Oliver as he describes his life plan (he wants to get his "ducks in line," a phrasing she corrects), her expression softening. "What ducks are those?" she asks. Ah, the usual: "job, career, house, future." He's definitely not her type, and so she regards Oliver with a kind of sympathetic disdain: "You'll be beating away chicks with a stick."

Though he really likes her, Oliver accepts Emily's terms, available to see her whenever she calls (every few years) but also intent on that life plan. He sells diapers on the internet, a vocation that makes Emily laugh but that ends up making lots of dot-com money for him and loyal, hardworking partner Jeeter (Kal Penn) (the timeframe here is mid-'90s). Because the film is structured according to Emily and Oliver's interactions, their separate lives appear only as non-plotty moments. Emily does have a couple of friends (Kathryn Hahn and Ali Larter) and Oliver siblings (Taryn Manning, Josh Stamberg), but they're relegated to standard advice-giving and wry-commenting. The non-together scenes serve primarily to establish short-lived obstacles to their inevitable reunion(s). Oliver has a live-in girlfriend (Moon Bloodgood), Emily has a boyfriend she can't forget (Gabriel Mann), Oliver has a job meltdown (coinciding with the dot-com bust, though the film does little in the way of examining this phenomenon), Emily has a fiancé (Jeremy Sisto). La-de-dah.

The disappointment of A Lot Like Love is not that it is yet another uninspired framing for the gloriously fearless Peet, though it is that (and, as a friend has asked, there will come a time when she must be or seem responsible for the choices she's made). The disappointment is that it begins with some sense of challenge to the plebian rhythms of romantic comedy, but then collapses so utterly onto the sword of generic demands. Emily and Oliver are not meant for one another. This much is clear, even though they are the stars of the film. She's a regular worker girl who wants to be an artist (eventually, she becomes a photographer, in part, the movie submits, because Oliver leaves her his camera) following one overnight visit). He's a visionary and entrepreneur who learns to roll with punches, that is, according to the movie, to fail (briefly) and come back. (Kutcher, by the way, appears to be making a lucrative habit of this role (see also: this year's Guess Who, 2003's My Boss's Daughter and Just Married.)

While Oliver's trajectory is vaguely noble within the lackadaisical shape of this story, Emily capitulates to generic expectations -- good: she develops responsibility, tolerance; less good: a desire for her guardian angel Ollie. This even though she (and you) wouldn't imagine this for her during the film's first hour. She falls victim to the genre's standard issue truth: as independent and quirky as she starts off, she's only waiting to be swept off her feet by an unemployed pretty boy who appreciates her arty, time-slowing photography. (Perhaps the manipulation of shutter speed is her way of controlling the ostensible speediness of her bad choices.) All this makes A Lot Like Love a double drat in Peet's continuing saga. Not only must she survive her costar's irrepressible Ashton-ness, but as well a plot that fails her and doesn't come back. Any movie that engineers a comic hijinksy highlight around its heroine smacking herself into a glass door is not thinking too far beyond surfaces.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Books

New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.

Music

Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.

Music

Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.

Music

New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.

Books

'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.

Music

Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.

Music

Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.

Music

M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Music

Parsonsfield Add Indie Pop to Their Folk on 'Happy Hour on the Floor'

Happy Hour on the Floor is a considerable departure from Parsonsfield's acclaimed rustic folk sound signaling their indie-pop orientation. Parsonsfield remind their audience to bestow gratitude and practice happiness: a truly welcomed exaltation.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.