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Case Number 08845: Small Claims Court

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Love Hurts (1991)

You Can't Hurry Love
1988 // 92 Minutes // Rated R
Love Hurts
1991 // 110 Minutes // Rated R
Released by Lionsgate
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // March 18th, 2006

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All Rise...

Judge Patrick Bromley thinks it would be funny if Phil Collins sang a Nazareth song, or vice versa.

Editor's Note

Our review of Love Hurts (2009), published January 12th, 2011, is also available.

The Charge

Love Hurts: A painfully romantic comedy.
You Can't Hurry Love: Can Eddie find the perfect girl, or will he have to settle?

The Case

The bad news about Bud Yorkin's 1991 film, Love Hurts is that—unlike its tagline purports—there's nothing painfully romantic or funny about it. The good news is that there's nothing particularly painful, either. Let's count our blessings.

The movie stars Jeff Daniels (Pleasantville) as Paul Weaver, a divorced father of two who's returning home after some time for the wedding of his sister. His mother (Cloris Leachman, Spanglish) is a nervous wreck; his dad (the dependable John Mahoney, Say Anything…) is a drunk; his ex-wife (Cynthia Sikes, Possums) seems to hate him; his son gets him and his daughter doesn't. Paul just wants to set things right—to reconcile with his wife or, at the very least, reestablish a relationship with his daughter.

At least, I think that's what Paul wants. The problem with Love Hurts is that we don't really know what Paul—or any of the characters, for that matter—wants. There's an overabundance of characters and an overabundance of personal dramas, meaning no one character or personal drama is explored with much clarity or depth. That includes the Daniels character, who seems to be the movie's focus but who we never really come to understand. One minute, he's trying to get back together with his estranged wife; the next, he's checking into a motel with a local married woman (Judith Ivey, In Country) looking to do some stepping out. Is Paul confused, or just a womanizing horndog?

Well, some of both, it seems, and not really either. I don't mind ambiguity in a character—heck, most movies these days could use a little more grey area—but only when I can sense that the actors and director have a handle on the character. That doesn't seem to be the case with Love Hurts, which is so busy trying to get across a whole spectrum of life's dramas (divorce, alcoholism, adultery) that it spreads itself too thin. There's a difference between ambiguous and underwritten, and that difference isn't on display here.

This comes as a disappointment to me, as I happen to really like Jeff Daniels, an actor whose face always shows some kind of buried sadness, even when he's smiling. Sure, he's got a propensity to disappear into everyman blandness in certain material (a quality Woody Allen must have instantly recognized and capitalized on in The Purple Rose of Cairo), but in the right roles Daniels can play the flawed American male better than most of his contemporaries. In some ways, Love Hurts plays like a precursor to his recent, darker work in films like Imaginary Heroes and The Squid and the Whale—he's doing Paul Weaver, only much, much better.

In the end, Love Hurts is a movie that's forgotten faster than it can even be discussed. Its comedy doesn't inspire us to laugh; its drama doesn't move us. It's not a bad film. It's just utterly unremarkable.

Being that it doesn't appear over the movie's opening credits, 1988's You Can't Hurry Love is essentially a 90-minute countdown to hearing that titular Phil Collins pop song. Have no fear; it does make its mandatory appearance in the film's final moments, during the obligatory "guy races to get the girl before it's too late" montage. All is right with the world.

Here, the guy is David Packer (RoboCop, Almost Heroes), a character actor so out of place as a leading man that he gets the "and" credit in the only movie he's the star of. With his goofy gap-toothed grin and shucky demeanor, Packer has I-know-that-guy likeability in spades. What he doesn't have are the acting chops to carry his own movie, which is precisely what he's called upon to do here. Packer stars as Eddie, a nice guy from Ohio who's moved out to Hollywood after being jilted at the altar in his hometown. His plans on the West coast are twofold: first, he's going to make it in the advertising world, and second, he's going to find a nice girl to settle down with.

Of course, the reality is that he winds up walking up and down the beach, handing out flyers for a maniac that lives in a box (Anthony Geary, UHF) and signing up for a video dating service to meet girls (these days, he'd have to go the "online" route, but remember that this is the '80s and the age of Love Connection). This means that the majority of the movie's running time can be spent with Eddie adopting new personas for each singles video he shoots, followed by the corresponding wrong-girl date sequence. When he says he's a director, he gets a wanna-be actress (complete with a scary dad, played by Charles Grodin in what has to be cinema's most useless cameo); when he says he's a musician, he gets a punk-haired '80s "rock chick" (The Pirate Movie's Kristy McNichol appearing in cinema's second most useless cameo). Believe it or not, the right girl is right in front of him all along (!!!)—she's the girl who works at the dating service, responsible for filming his videos and watching him re-invent himself once a week.

That girl? She's Bridget Fonda (Point of No Return, Jackie Brown), one of the cutest and most likeable girl-next-door types to show up in movies in the last 20 years. Am I biased? Sure—Fonda stole my heart in 1992's Singles and I've had a pretty hefty crush on her ever since. You Can't Hurry Love is one of her very first film roles, and it's easy to see why she would go on to become a star—even in forgettable tripe like this, you take notice of her. The movie may stink, but you want to see the girl again, wondering what she would be like in a movie that knew what to do with her. Thanks to Cameron Crowe, who provided an answer to that question for us.

There is a reward in store for viewers who are able to slog all the way through You Can't Hurry Love: hearing Sally Kellerman (Back to School, who appears in the film as part of its trend of useless cameos) sing her song "I'd Lie to You for Your Love" over the end credits. She sings, people. Sadly, there's no mention of salad dressing in any of the lyrics.

Lionsgate releases both Love Hurts and You Can't Hurry Love on a single disc (on the same side, no less—it's not even a "flipper") as part of their "Red Carpet Double Feature" collection. Aside from my own nagging doubts that a red carpet—or carpet of any color, for that matter—was ever rolled out for either of these two movies, I'm having a tough time reconciling their collective release. Both features are presented in full-frame format; while neither image looks particularly awful considering they're fifteen to twenty years old, it's obvious that not much care went into either their preservation or their transfer to DVD. The picture on both films is washed out and soft, with a good deal of visible grain—it's hardly an upgrade from any VHS copy that might still be laying around the bargain bins somewhere. The audio track is more of the same, relegating almost every sound to the front center channel and not providing much clarity—it's a "surround" track without much surround. Subtitles might have helped in understanding the dialogue at times, but, alas, there aren't any.

Love Hurts and You Can't Hurry Love. Or, in other words: Jeff Daniels and Bridget Fonda—Two Actors I Really Like in Two Movies I Really Didn't.

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• Comedy
• Romance
• Romantic Comedies

Scales of Justice, You Can't Hurry Love

Judgment: 67

Perp Profile, You Can't Hurry Love

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, You Can't Hurry Love

• None

Scales of Justice, Love Hurts

Judgment: 71

Perp Profile, Love Hurts

Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks, Love Hurts

• None

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