Like “Return to Me,” this is a love story that is better than its gimmick. In a variation on the “cute meet” of romantic comedies, this movie has a “buried secret that will be revealed at the worst possible time” meeting of its leads, with a final plot twist that is one of the most obvious and creaky screenwriter ploys of the year. But the ability, chemistry, and charm of Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow manage to keep it afloat.
Affleck plays Buddy Armaral, an advertising executive who is a closer. He is a charming guy who gets the deal done. As this movie begins, he has just landed a huge account for his advertising agency. But on his way home from O’Hare, he runs into travel hell (he looks at the list of delayed flights in a shot almost identical to one in “Forces of Nature”). He impetuously gives up his boarding pass to a guy who is anxious to get back to his family, not because he is generous, but because he is hoping for a one-night-stand with another stranded traveler. The plane crashes, and Buddy is overcome with survivor guilt. He drinks so much that he lands in rehab. When he gets out, he looks up the widow of the man who flew on his ticket. Abby (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a struggling realtor, and Buddy helps her get a nice commission. He falls for her and they become very close, until she discovers why they met.
Families should know that Buddy is an alcoholic who makes an embarrassing acceptance speech when his firm gets an advertising award. He goes into rehab. When he gets out, he almost takes a drink. Abby smokes as a way of getting over an addiction to nicotine gum. A character mentions that he is gay. Characters wake up in bed together after a one-night stand. There is brief strong language.
Families who see this movie should talk about how, after someone dies, the survivors may feel angry and guilty. Buddy, Abby, and Abby’s son all feel guilty for the death of Abby’s husband. How do they show it? How do they resolve it? Both Buddy and Abby lied at their first meeting — why? And why did Buddy notice the way Abby jumped up to remove the toilet paper from the girl’s shoe? What did he learn from that?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Passion of Mind.”