Reminiscent of “When Harry Met Sally,” “A Lot Like Love” is a modern take on the possibilities of chance encounters with love. En route from Los Angeles to New York City, Oliver Martin (Ashton Kutcher) and Emily Friehl (Amanda Peet) didn’t expect to have a one night stand, least of all 35,000 feet in the air. And, despite Oliver’s sincere attempts afterwards to get to know the mysterious, albeit brooding beauty, Emily won’t have any of it. Nope, her dark hair, smoky eyeliner, and sick sense of humor keeps putting Oliver in the most awkward of situations. After a brief but memorable stint in the Big Apple—Oliver visiting his deaf brother in law school, Emily torturing her successful father and stepmother—the two are left to anxiously await the fulfillment of a bet six years to come. So the story goes: in six years, Emily is to call Oliver’s parent’s house; when his parents answer, they are to tell Emily that their boy has inevitably become the successful, happily married businessman he predicted six years prior.
And so, six years later…Actually, its more like three years later, and Emily is currently dating some business-oriented tool Peter (Gabriel Mann), who, completely self-involved and work obsessed, decides that Emily’s spontaneous, albeit reckless personality proves too much for the type-A personality. So, once again single, Emily Friehl pulls out Oliver’s number and starts things back up, three years early and just in time for New Years. But, inevitably, Emily and Oliver aren’t very good at the whole traditional dating thing.
After a brief comic interlude with deaf brother Graham (Tyrone Giordano), and a silent dinner date at the local Chinese bistro, Emily and Oliver head to a New Year’s party where the “When Harry Met Sally” clichés ensue. Dressed in a beautiful satin gown, Emily espies her ex (yes, Peter) and proceeds to destroy herself with potent cocktails and self pity. Nearly missing New Years could have proved fatal for the two, but the dashing Oliver swoops in just in time for the kiss. But, he failed to mention that he was leaving for San Francisco the next day, relocating for business he claims. After one more failed night at love, Oliver is off to San Fran and Emily is left lost without love in L.A.
2 years later (that makes 5 years, for those who are counting), Emily is just beginning love with a mysterious music man by the name of Ben (Jeremy Sisto), while Oliver is discovering that life without Bridget, his serious San Fran love, isn’t half as bad as life without Emily. Surprise! He crash-lands on Emily’s door only to complicate things with one more amazing night of fun, memories, and, of course…baggage.
It’s nearing on the six year mark, and there have been a lot of interim calls and casual moments of fun and laughter; nevertheless, will or won’t Olly (as Emily so affectionately calls him) find a way to make things work with the L.A. beauty? It’s undeniably love, but then again, there’s life and all its stipulations and complications. So now, here sits Oliver in an airport in New York City, trying to decide whether or not he will or won’t be traveling back to Los Angeles.
“A Lot Like Love” is a lot like “When Harry Met Sally”; but it's younger, funnier, fresher, and more in tune with the modern audiences of today. “When Harry Met Sally” is a classic, and Ryan and Crystal are hard to beat; but Amanda Peet and Ashton Kutcher are also really good at playing loveable, complicated, quirky everyday people that you just can’t help but love as well. Kutcher is as vulnerable as he is confidently charismatic, and Peet’s metamorphosis from angst teen to troubled young woman is as seductive as it is heartbreaking. Together, the two shine onscreen in ways some cast-duos can’t; there’s a genuine-ness to their performances that makes them all the more tactile and endearing.
As far as plot goes: it’s not original, but that’s to be expected. What’s great about it, however, is the jet setting rapid evolution of one lost character to the next. Stability makes its way into the film by way of the deaf brother, Martin, as well as Emily’s pregnant best friend; together their grounded-ness help sedate the chaotic mayhem that is Oliver and Emily’s life. Still, there’s enough witty punch to Kutcher and Peet’s chemistry to keep audiences both in-tune and interested. Above all, Kutcher’s and Peet’s respective performances are relatable; perhaps that's the key to the success of the “inspired” romantic comedy.
A slightly bubblegum/mainstream rock soundtrack backs the flick’s equally pop culture feel; but the film is bold and vibrant, and the homage to photography is perhaps the most credible aspect of the film, insofar as everything is else is cliché and expected. That the two are artsy seems to validate their penchant for self-masochism and lonely, depressing, unfulfilled lives—they can take a pretty picture of life, they just can’t make the portrait come true for themselves. That’s what “A Lot Like Love” is all about—finding love, letting go, and finally making “the beautiful” a reality.