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With: Starring Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Kathryn Hahn, Ali Larter, Taryn Manning, Kal Penn, Gabriel Mann, Jeremy Sisto, Moon Bloodgood, Herschel Bleefeld
Written by: Colin Patrick Lynch
Directed by: Nigel Cole
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, nudity and language
Running Time: 107
Date: 03/18/2013

A Lot Like Love (2005)

3 Stars (out of 4)

'Love's' Labors Lost

By Rob Blackwelder, SPLICEDwire

Until its out-of-character finale abandons wit, creativity andcontagious chemistry in favor of contrived misunderstandings that stinkof a studio-mandated rewrite, A Lot Like Love is a deliciously fresh,ingenuous and beguiling romantic comedy.

Structured similarly to When Harry Met Sally, with its fated couple crossing paths every few years without the romantic pieces quite falling into place, the movie opens "7 years ago," with meek, shaggy-haired, 20-ish Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) watching from afar as a magnetically temperamental proto-punk named Emily (Amanda Peet) has a blow-up with a boyfriend who is dropping her off at Los Angeles International Airport.

While waiting for the same flight to New York, these two exchange long stares (his dumbstruck and smitten but empathetic, hers a sad but indignant "what are you lookin' at?!") that establish illuminating layers of humor and character without a single word of dialogue. In this one tacit scene, Peet delivers on the promise of all her sublime supporting performances (in movies like The Whole Nine Yards, Igby Goes Down and Something's Gotta Give), and Kutcher ("That '70s Show," Guess Who?) reveals a hitherto unrealized depth and charm.

Then during the flight, on a whim of newly unfettered lust, Emily follows Oliver into the airliner's tiny bathroom and jumps his bones.

She intends this "mile high club" tryst to be a one-off encounter, but she keeps bumping into Oliver at similarly vulnerable moments in her life. Of course, there always seems to be something preventing them from spending more than one or two days together, as when they meet again in L.A. a few years later: She's now a struggling actress and he's moving out of his mother's house for the first time to start a dot-com in San Francisco. (Uh-oh.)

The hard-to-contain besotted smirks, knowing glances, and playful, sexually charged whimsy that sparkles between Peet and Kutcher -- as they stare each other down in the airport or hook up for a single New Year's Eve -- is something that cannot be scripted. It's the magic of perfect casting and inspired performances.

But that's not to say A Lot Like Love doesn't have snappy writing. Actor-turned writer Colin Patrick Lynch provides astute but authentic wittiness, many unique yet familiar moments (a spontaneous road trip episode is one of the movie's best), and inconspicuously poignant layers of character (the death of Emily's mom some time ago plays a momentary role in the evolution of the relationship).

British director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls, Saving Grace) finds just the right punch and pace for the movie's underlying comedy, and makes interesting choices for filming (New York scenes take place not at postcard locales, but at, say, a basketball court in Chinatown). But he's smart enough to know when to just roll the camera and get out of the way of his talented cast, which includes supporting roles by underappreciated talents like Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle), Kathryn Hahn (the bartender in Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!) and Taryn Manning (8 Mile, crazy/beautiful).

Even the makeup and wardrobe are perfect. In the opening scene, Kutcher and Peet genuinely look like 20-year-olds from the early '90s, not like actors dressed up to look younger than they are.

But then comes that pivotal moment when it all goes south. The last 10 minutes of A Lot Like Love are relentlessly unoriginal -- driven by four clumsy, conspicuous clichés and a transparently artificial twist that is an insult to the characters' intelligence and a betrayal of the movie's structure.

This nose-dive cannot dampen the irresistible glimmer between Peet and Kutcher that gives the movie its vivacity, but it does beg the question: What was the original climax of this clever, charismatic comedy, and at what point in the filmmaking process was it changed? I'm hoping there's a completed original ending hidden away at Touchstone Pictures, waiting to be restored as a bonus feature on the DVD.

DVD Details: (Aug. 22) Touchstone's new DVD comes with a commentary track, a good blooper reel, deleted scenes and a watchable music video for Aqualung's "Brighter Than Sunshine." The audio is available in 5.1 Dolby Digital, plus optional French and Spanish language tracks. The picture is mastered in 1.85:1 widescreen, and there are optional English and Spanish subtitles. (JMA)

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