A Lot Like Love
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Naive twentysomething Oliver Martin is flying from Los Angeles to New York to visit his brother. At first, it promises to be an uneventful trip. But before his plane touches down, an impulsive, punked-out stranger barges into the airplane lavatory and initiates sex with him. She wants no names. No strings. And when Oliver tries to engage her in conversation, the chain-smoking nymphomaniac bites back, “What are we, friends now?”
At this point, audiences with a shred of moral conscience will wonder why they should invest in either of these people. There’s no good reason, although this bankrupt romantic comedy tries desperately to concoct a few via a half-dozen brief encounters that stretch out over the next seven years. We learn that Emily—the bathroom crasher—is a mildly self-destructive artist better at photography than acting. Oliver is a budding entrepreneur eager to sell diapers online. (He eventually launches a short-lived enterprise called diaperrush.com.) The pair usually reconnect after one or the other gets dumped by a live-in lover. To buy the film’s “happy ending,” one must believe that sporadic episodes of drinking and sex are enough to bond two people in a deep, significant way.
Friends and family members lend support to the main characters through the ups and downs of life. Oliver’s brother is a contented family man whose deafness is handled with great humanity, respect and gentle humor. Oliver and Emily extend an occasional kind gesture to one another. One can assume that Emily’s aimlessness is due in part to losing her mother at a young age, suggesting the importance of a mother’s presence in a girl’s life.
Emily puts stock in astrology.
Emily spontaneously pursues sex with a stranger—Oliver—in an airplane lavatory. Cohabitation is portrayed as a natural phase of dating relationships. We overhear Emily having sex with her roommate, Peter, who breaks up with her soon afterward. Upon arriving at Emily’s place for the first time in three years, Oliver gets passionate right away until she playfully throws on the brakes. Another giggling couple emerges from a bathroom stall. Emily goes braless in one scene. A desert road trip leads to Emily and Oliver stripping naked and embracing for a photo, which is later seen hanging in a gallery. A shot through their car’s moon roof shows the nude lovers lying in a sexual position.
Those and other instances of partial nudity barely manage to comply with PG-13 standards. But star Ashton Kutcher, who did his first nude scene in this film, couldn't seem to care less. "I like being nude," he says. "So for me, it wasn't incredibly tough."
Emily walks smack into a glass door, which knocks her to the floor. A tempestuous relationship ends with her hurling things at her boyfriend.
Crude or Profane Language
A dozen profanities or crude expressions include two s-words and an exclamatory use of Jesus’ name. Oliver’s snooty sister makes an obscene gesture and habitually calls him a coarse term for male anatomy.
Drug and Alcohol Content
It’s remarkable, considering all of the ways Emily and Oliver reconnect over a seven-year period, that they don’t bump into each other at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Their encounters always involve drinking. A visit to a bar leads to double shots of Jack Daniel’s chased with beer. They polish off bottles of wine during one reunion, champagne at another. Emily drowns her sorrows at a party when she sees her ex with another woman (she eventually passes out in Oliver’s bathroom). Early on, Emily smokes cigarettes like they’re going out of style. Years later she tries to quit but lapses back into bad habits.
Other Negative Elements
Emily lies to her father and stepmother to escape a dull afternoon in their company.
Perhaps for a generation co-opted by the detached, aloof sexuality preached 24/7 on MTV, A Lot Like Love will possess an element of truth. How sad if it does. Judging from the definition of love laid out in 1 Corinthians 13, Oliver and Emily’s vacuous seven-year romance is a whole lot more like lust, promiscuity and cohabitation. This vacuous film implies that they share something deep and meaningful when, in fact, they are selfish, immature wanderers emotionally bound by a physical intimacy in search of its own relevance.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Amanda Peet as Emily Friehl; Ashton Kutcher as Oliver Martin; Kathryn Hahn as Michelle; Gabriel Mann as Peter; Kal Penn as Jeeter; Aimee Garcia as Nicole; Ali Larter as Gina; Jeremy Sisto as Ben Miller; Taryn Manning as Ellen Martin
Nigel Cole ( )