Not a Lot to 'Love'

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005

"A LOT LIKE LOVE" starts with a bang and ends with a whimper.

Actually, I believe the precise term for the brief, anonymous sexual encounter set in an airplane bathroom that opens the film is, or at least used to be, a "quickie." But that probably dates me as someone born before 1970 -- in other words, not this movie's target demographic. Nowadays, it's probably called a "hookup." Whatever.

One minute recent college grad Oliver (Ashton Kutcher) is minding his own business on his way to New York to visit his law-student brother (Ty Giordano), the next he's being sexually assaulted in a public toilet by a beautiful young stranger (Amanda Peet) on the rebound from a broken relationship. If that isn't love, or something a lot like it, I don't know what is.

Apparently, Oliver doesn't get out much. You see, once the plane lands, he seems so grateful for having had the rare opportunity to have sex with anyone that he starts pursuing Emily, as he subsequently learns his new friend is called, with the goofy affection of a cocker spaniel puppy that has just been rescued by PETA from an animal experimentation lab. This, despite the fact that he seems to be the world's sweetest, most sensitive guy (with a deaf brother, for gorsh's sake, whom Oliver treats just like anybody else), and she's a -- how did Barbara Bush once put this? -- "rhymes with witch."

That's right. Emily is rude, narcissistic, distant, manipulative, a smoker and a drunk. Oh, but she's sooo hot. Did I mention she was played by Amanda Peet? Purrrrr.

After a day spent together, during which Emily exhibits behavior that's supposed to be quirky 'n' feisty but that, in the real world, would send most men running in the opposite direction, Oliver gives Emily his number, with an open invitation to call him in a few years when his online diaper business has taken off.

Naturally, the movie flashes forward a few years, then another few and another few, as Emily and Oliver serendipitously meet again and again, each time prevented by geography, careers or other romantic entanglements from realizing or acting on the fact that they're meant for each other.

And how do I know that they are? Because it says so in the press kit. That and the fact that Kutcher and Peet are kissing like lovebirds in the photo-booth pictures that decorate the movie poster. Hey, I do my homework.

"A Lot Like Love" may not be the most egregious example of a foregone romantic conclusion I've ever seen, but there ain't exactly a whole lot of suspense at work here either. What kept me awake, though, was not the question of whether Oliver and Emily would end up together -- do ya think? -- but whether Kutcher and Peet could possibly get any cuter without exploding. (And, yes, Emily does lose the 'tude as time goes by.)

I wanted so badly to hate "A Lot Like Love," but, much like Oliver, my critical faculties were disabled, in my case not by one, but two pretty faces.

A lot like love? Hardly. Would you believe, maybe, a little like mild indifference?

A LOT LIKE LOVE (PG-13, 97 minutes) -- Contains mild obscenity, moonlit nudity and sexual references. Area theaters.

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