Boy and girl meet, fall in love, break up and get back together again. The time-tested formula for romantic comedy gets a fresh treatment in a new film co-starring Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet. Alan Silverman has a look at A Lot Like Love.
The relationship starts at a high point - literally - when college-age Emily and Oliver have a chance, but intense, meeting on board a jetliner on a cross-country flight. When the plane lands in New York they go their separate ways; but over the course of the next few years fate, curiosity and - just maybe - love keep bringing them back together.
Ashton Kutcher goes from awkward teen to almost independent young man as Oliver.
"I think the appeal of Oliver is that he is relatable," Kutcher says. "I think that guys, in general, feel like they have to attain this certain personal status in their minds before they can be in a relationship. It's like 'I'm not who I am yet. I'm going to be who I am as soon as I get this, this and this.' Then you don't have to worry about 'trading up.' I think as a guy you think 'well, right now I'm at this level in my life, so I can get this kind of girl; and when I get here then I'm going to have to trade up, so why even go through it? Just wait until I get there.' The truth is you're never there, but you're always there. I think that's a very relatable thing for guys."
Amanda Peet plays Emily and says she identifies with the character's tough exterior - especially the way she is when she first meets Oliver.
"What appealed to me about the movie was how it started: how it's kind of like this contentious, combative beginning and that she likes him despite herself," explains Peet. "I think that's always a great recipe for a romantic comedy - the kind of old-fashioned romantic comedy where one of them detests the other one ... or thinks she is better than he is or not worthy ... but underneath there is a great sizzle percolating. I think that's what we were trying to achieve."
For the story to work, Oliver and Emily must fall in love, but not realize it until they've almost lost the chance to be together. Peet, however, is not so sure about that happening in real life.
"I personally don't believe in love at first sight," she says. "I do believe in a lot of chemistry and lust at first sight. Maybe I'm getting too old, but I think it's something that takes work and, as you can see in the movie, timing is everything. Both people have to be ready and open. I think that's sort of what the movie is about.
I'm something of a 'love cynic' in that I don't even know if it's really, truly 100 percent attainable in the human form," Peet adds.
Kutcher also thinks the film's depiction of romance may be a bit idealistic.
"To me, love is when your desire for someone else is greater than your desire for yourself, or equal to that," he says. "That's a very tricky thing to attain and I think A Lot Like Love is what most of us call love.
The film is directed by English filmmaker Nigel Cole, who says romantic comedy is his favorite genre, even though there is little doubt that the couple will end up together by the last reel.
"Of course, these days you know what the ending is of all movies," he notes. "James Bond is going to blow up the bad guys hideout. You can be pretty sure of that. The detective is always going to find out who the murderer is, the hero is always going to triumph over evil. I think that's why we enjoy movies. We enjoy them because we want to know how you are going to get to that point, rather than what the ending is. So I don't think that's a problem. I think what you work with is how you get there, how they find each other and find true love and happiness at the end ... and not 'if [they do].'"
A Lot Like Love also features Kathryn Hahn and Ali Larter as Emily's best friends; Jeremy Sisto plays the almost perfect guy she almost marries; Taryn Manning is Oliver's bratty little sister; and deaf actor Ty Giordano plays his supportive older brother.