Real-life is a happily-ever-after for the always starry-eyed Ava (Mandy Moore) who is living out her fairy-tale dreams. Her wonderful boyfriend of two years has proposed and today, she is saying “I do” to her best friend. As a marriage counselor, Ava cannot help but “counsel” every one else’s problems because she sees failures every day, but the people she looks too as an example for a marriage that works are her parents (James Brolin, Jane Seymour). Married for thirty years, her family has been a happy one that includes her flighty baby sister, Shelby (Jessica Szhor). Unexpectedly, Ava’s happy-ever-after with husband Charlie (Kellan Lutz) is cut short when her mother informs her daughters that she wants a divorce… stemming from an affair their father had twenty-five years ago. This news sends Ava’s world into a tailspin and she becomes obsessed with reconciling her parents – even at the risk of her own new marriage, and she continues to plan the surprise 30th anniversary party. Turns out, this bombshell isn’t Ava’s only cause for concern when even more secrets come to light… secrets that might not survive her already fragile new marriage.
This little independent film is super cute and super sappy but what’s more, it has a really sweet heart. The movie starts out with a flowery but genuine proposal and ends on an equally adorable scene – and I really liked that it’s made like a home video. During the better part of the runtime, the story is kind of unrealistic because Ava’s view of marriage and relationships weren’t logically – or emotionally sound. Personally, I have my own thoughts on real-life “fairy-tale” marriages but I also know that things aren’t always going to be rosy and there will be conflict – Ava biggest issue was that she needed to be able to wrap her mind about that truth. Fortunately, for her, before the credits roll, she does. And, I liked that about the movie. Writers administered a perfect balance of fairy-tale happiness and yet, the characters have a grasp on reality – and are “real.”
The acting is really quite good. Believe it or not, I think this is Mandy Moore at her best. I haven’t seen all of her movies and what I have are only of the cutesy, teenage variety, but I thought she did an admirable job with what the script gave her. She and Kellan have a credible, genuine chemistry and seeing them interact was sweet. It might not express it in the best of ways, but the movie demonstrates that a marriage is worth fighting for, that it is a sacred union and it should be treated and recognized as such. If there is a flaw in those good intentions, it also mildly advocates that men might cheat in a marriage and if so, that is okay because their wife should – and will forgive them their sin and go on. The fact that her father had an extra-marital affair plants a tiny seed of doubt in Ava’s belief that Charlie would never do such a thing to their marriage.
By the end of this comedy, I was in stitches. I thought the script was good and I liked how the director (who just happens to be Dermot Mulroney) and cast staged each and every scene. Bottom line: the movie is quirky and not without its flaws, but for an entertaining night’s worth of wholesome enjoyment, you cannot find something on the new release shelf that is more comical than this little gem. Sure, it stumbles in certain of its convictions, but for the most part, this is a really touching and romantic movie. Most of the omissions of guilt and admittance of love have a ring of truth to them, and I cannot help but appreciate that. Even though it is flawed in some of its approaches to the principles of its three-word title, the movie still deserves a look for anyone who enjoys romances with some quirkiness to them – this one is equal parts drama and comedic enjoyment and it’s priceless.
(PG13 concerns: there is quite a lot of talk about sex – mainly between married couples. References are made to an extra-marital affair and a child that resulted from it. Some profanity and/or abuse of God’s name may be used. There is a staged suicide and a night out drinking that also includes a strip club.)