Love Hurts -- Film Review

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The protagonist of Barra Grant's "Love Hurts" is an absent-minded physician more or less stuck in the '80s, and the movie suffers from a similar problem: It's a romantic comedy that takes as its model TV sitcoms from bygone days.

The acting is overly broad, so even the dimmest light bulb in the audience gets the gags, and there is always a group of characters hanging out so that the hero has someone to argue/kvetsh/cry/laugh/consult/moralize with. All that's missing is a laugh track.

The film opens in two Los Angeles theaters in hopes of a wider release later. That scenario is unduly optimistic as the small screen of home entertainment appears a more likely destination.

The tone of Grant's writing is disconcertingly off, and her direction follows suit. The situation in this situation comedy is this: Amanda (Carrie-Anne Moss), the long-suffering wife of fatuous ear-nose-throat doctor Ben (Richard E. Grant), moves in with best friend Gloria (Camryn Manheim). Her son, high school senior Justin (Johnny Pacar), is left behind to deal with his father.

Justin must be a pretty unusual 17-year-old. He takes the implosion of his family in stride. But something feels very strange about a son offering how-to-score advice to his dad moments after mom moves out. It's as if they're odd-couple roommates with the stud coaching the geek on how to improve his sexual game. Justin is equally as blase about his mom's new "friend."

The title is "Love Hurts." So where's the hurt? Grant plays sitcom pain: exaggerated facial and body gestures, overbaked booze guzzling in his pajamas or playing video games while juiced with caffeine. But you never get a feeling for what everyone is this family --the father, mother or son -- should be going through during this crisis.

Instead, you get thoroughly unconvincing story points that move characters from A to B to C -- only the characters never catch up. For instance, Justin takes his dad to get a more hip hairstyle. Immediately, Ben's nurse (Jenna Elfman) and trainer (Janeane Garofalo) can't keep their hands off him. Say what? It only takes a haircut?

As Ben becomes the biggest playboy in town, his son -- who has so many sexually willing girlfriends he can't keep track -- suddenly falls for a Russian ballerina (Olga Fonda). And becomes tongue-tied and inept. So now Dad can teach him about romance.
But neither really teaches the other anything. For Justin, it's a haircut and new suit. For Ben, it's two fingers sliding down a cheek bone. Suffice it to say, Barra Grant hasn't a clue how men talk and interact when women aren't around.

As for the other Grant, Richard E., the real pain here lies in his off-kilter performance. He overdoes the woeful husband/father, then becomes the worst playboy you ever saw. Jerry Lewis' nutty professor looks sophisticated by comparison. Grant needed a director to yank on the reins and guide him toward more natural line readings and less shtick. By contrast, the other actors perform in a more realistic manner.

Tech credits are pro though uninspired.

Opens: Friday, Nov. 13 (Lantern Lane Entertainment)
Production: Pageant Prods.
Cast: Richard E. Grant, Carrie-Anne Moss, Johnny Pacar, Jenna Elfman, Janeane Garofalo, Camryn Manheim
Director-screenwriter: Barra Grant
Producer: Brian Reily
Executive producer: Laura Hopper
Director of photography: Alan Caso
Production designer: Dina Lipton
Music: Mark Adler
Costume designer: Johanna Argan
Editor: Roger Bondelli
Rated PG-13, 95 minutes
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