Valentine's Day grabbed my attention a few months ago when word about the exceptionally starry cast was released. Comparisons have been made between it and He's Just Not That Into You, which are totally understandable given that the two movies share two of the same writers (Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein who performed rewrites on this one).
Directed by Garry Marshall, the film stars Ashton Kutcher, Jennifer Garner, Jessica Alba, Anne Hathaway, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Topher Grace, Emma Roberts, Shirley MacLaine, Eric Dane, Jamie Foxx, Patrick Dempsey - like I said, super-starry.
The setting is Los Angeles on, of course, Valentine's Day. The film opens with a florist-cum-coffee shop owner REED proposing to his girlfriend MORLEY (that name needs to be changed ASAP). From there we meet a host of other characters. KELVIN, a sports journalist who hates Valentine's Day, and is asked by his boss to film an aerial piece based on people's thoughts on Valentine's Day. JULIA, a young woman in a relationship with a doctor HARRISON who unbenownst to her, is married with two kids. JASON, a mailroom guy at CAA who forgets it is Valentine's Day and is unsure of how he should celebrate it with his current flame LIZ given that they've only slept together once. JANICE, a super high-achiever who is eager to tell everybody and their mother about her plans to lose her virginity to her boyfriend ALEX on Valentine's Day. Estelle & Edgar, an old married couple whose relationship is thrown into turmoil when Estelle reveals that she once slept with another man years previous. KARA, a publicist who hates Valentine's Day and therefore organises a "I Hate Valentine's Day" dinner every year. SEAN JACKSON, a football player, whose career is the subject of much interest i.e will he retire/continue to play? EDISON, a 10 year old kid, who is sort of the smartest person in the movie. KATE, a soldier returning home to spend Valentine's Day in Los Angeles before swiftly returning to Iraq. HOLDEN who is basically a guy who sits beside Kate on the plane.
So, is it good?
Well, I have good news and bad news. The good news is I read the full script in one sitting, so the fact that it kept me interested is a positive sign. However, the bad news is that there is simply too much going on in the film. There's all these characters that we barely get to meet or get to know properly, and some really pointless and badly-executed stories, the worst being that of Edgar and Estelle, the film's resident old folks. When we first meet them, they're that old couple that are still completely in love after all these years. The next time we meet them (this all takes place the same day) Edgar discovers that Estelle was unfaithful to him once during their marriage. Then he's packing his suitcase, and then he's at an outdoor screening of Pillow Talk and they reconcile ALL IN THE SAME DAY. The story is totally unnecessary and implausible. What I would have enjoyed more was if the couple served as mentors to the younger characters for the film - the proof that love exists. Introducing an affair - well, it's nonsense.
Another character I was frankly unsettled by was Janice, the weird teenager insistent upon telling every Tom, Dick & Harry about her plans to have sex with her boyfriend Alex for the first time. While it's never explored, I'm pretty sure any teenage girl who is that open about her sex life has some behavioural problems and should not be responsible for looking after a child, as Janice is (she's Edison's nanny).
By far the most nonsensical scene in the movie is when JULIA, the young woman having a relationship with a married man, goes to catch him in the act. She goes into a restaurant, approaches HARRISON and his wife, and fakes labour pains (Harrison, of course, delivers babies). She never properly confronts him, just writhes around the flooor in faux-agony while Harrison's wife looks on concerned. Then she gets up, insists everything is fine and charges some stuff to Harrison. That's her only closure - that she left HARRISON with a bill.
Another flaw in the script is that some stories are left by the wayside. The story of Kate, a female soldier returning home from Iraq to spend Valentine's Day with her loved ones, is barely touched on and could have been the most affecting story in the movie. Instead we're forced to watch Reed embark on a wild goose chase after Julia to tell her that Harrison's married.
All that said, I did read it all in one sitting and while I cringed a couple of times, I was genuinely curious to see how it would all unfold. I'm hoping that the cast and the great Garry Marshall can elevate this movie and bring out the comedy in it.
If you enjoyed He's Just Not That Into You, you'll probably like this. If you didn't like the aforementioned HJNTIY, then you'll most likely hate this.
Overall - C+