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Love Is All You Need

by Jake Mulligan
Contributor
Friday May 3, 2013
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a scene from LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED
a scene from LOVE IS ALL YOU NEED  

"Love is All You Need" opens the same way most romantic comedies do: with a lot of really terrible things happening to a woman.

Ida (Trine Dyrholm) has just finished her last round of chemotherapy. Dejectedly speaking to her doctor as the film opens, she rejects the idea of reconstructive surgery for her breast. The doctor, perhaps insensitively, suggests her husband might appreciate it. "Leif?" she incredulously responds, "I don’t think he’s even noticed there’s one missing." When she gets home that day, it becomes clear why: she catches him on the couch with Tilde, "from accounting," Leif struggling to untangle his ugly naked self from his younger mistress. He greets Ida as if nothing’s wrong. "Weren’t you out for chemo?"

It almost seems too dark to qualify as boilerplate. But before you can manage to feign interest, the next disastrous event sends Ida on an upswing. On her way to the airport, off to her daughter’s wedding in Italy, she rams her car into an upscale gentleman’s car - Pierce Brosnan’s car, actually. It’s played as a surprise when he’s revealed to be the as-of-yet-unmet father of the groom, but we can see the steps of this dance play out far in advance.

But it’s not about whether or not Brosnan’s business-minded widower, Phillip, and the jilted Ida will flirt, or whether they will get into comic misunderstandings, or whether they’ll dance under the sentimentally rendered Italian sun, or whether she’ll survive her battle with cancer, or whether they’ll end up together at the end. The sun-drenched primary colors and smiling tourists behind the opening credits seem to have aimlessly wandered over from a Katherine Heigl movie; that alone tells us where we’re headed. It’s about how they’ll do those things; for better or worse, they do them with perfunctory nimbleness. This is a Beginner’s Class, not a Ballroom.

Director Susanne Bier ("In a Better World," "Things We Lost In the Fire") has certainly made better and worse movies before, but I venture a guess that she’s never set her aim so squarely on the middlebrow. "Love" swaps back and forth between Danish and English, but you shouldn’t mistake its European origin for prestige. Their popular cinema is no more sophisticated than ours; their scripts can be equally shortcut-laden. Leif and his inappropriate mistress, of course, go to the wedding; Phillip, of course, has an insufferable sister-in-law who muddles up his romance with Ida; and the wedding, of course, never goes off (for reasons that readers of this website will pick up on quickly.)

Only Dyrholm’s headstrong charm and Brosnan’s Alec-Baldwin-in-"30 Rock" routine - all impenetrable capitalist furor and furrowed eyebrows - help the movie plod along enjoyably for its 110 minutes. Phillip verbally castrates his employees with commands like, "The boy’s 7. He won’t remember that you weren’t at his party. Buy him a card and get on the plane." And she’s the only one with the spine to call him on his bullshit. But from the meet-cute start, the only thing standing in the way of their embrace is the script. You kill time, staring at the vistas, waiting for the conclusion you always know is coming. It’s a nice vacation, but not one I’d want to pay $12 to take.

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