Sarah (Diane Lane) comes from a big family, and they’ve all gathered in her kitchen to humiliate her. And by humiliate her, I mean that they’re throwing an intervention. That makes it sound like a party, I suppose, and it is most decidedly not. Nor is it quite as serious as it sounds. They’re not trying to send her to rehab. They’re trying to relaunch her back into the dating world after a devastating divorce. It doesn’t work – at least, not until she accidentally answers her own father’s personal ad. That’s a new low, as you can imagine. So maybe now she’s open to it. Ish. Her sister makes her a dating profile with quasi-consent (a good time to remind you that this movie was released in 2005).
Meanwhile, across town, a boat builder named Jake (John Cusack) is also newly on the market with a bruised heart that’s still trickling blood. He’s also got a friend/divorce attorney pushing him into the internet dating thing, and that’s how they wind up meeting – at a dog park, each with a borrowed canine friend. The date is shaky; Jake is so nervous he can’t stop insulting Sarah. Their next date has crazy beautiful moments of connection and chemistry, and then terrible lows that radiate awkwardness. So there’s wiggle room for a guy like Bobby (Dermot Mulroney) to enter the picture and sweep Sarah off her feet with his smooth technique. Dramaaaaa!
Anyway, it’s nice to see a rom-com for the middle aged. For the sad-sacks post divorce. For the cynics and the chronically depressed. And yet it still manages to charm. Of course, you might hope for a little more from two grown-ups who have loved and lost. You’d hope they’d have grown, that they’d have some insights. That they’d be better at this. And they’re really not.
Must Love Dogs should have Loved Rewrites. There’s nothing in here that you haven’t seen before. It’s not just that you see things coming from miles away – it’s that they’ve literally just traced a rom-com road map and hit up each and every landmark and rest stop along the way. And yet Lane and Cusack are just so good together. Never underestimate the likability of your leads.
I never got to write myself a dating profile, but even if I had, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me to write Must Love Dogs, even though that’s obviously true. And thank goodness I wasn’t able to cock-block myself, because Sean never would have answered such an ad. He grew up with cats. But my little puppy Herbie won him over. No surprise there: Herbie is a stud, he wins over everyone he meets. Sean is a harder sell, and yet he was surprisingly able to win over Herbie, which was the more important part of the equation. I’d only had Herbie about 4 months when I met Sean, but Herbie had already been subjected to quite a few gentlemen callers and let me tell you – he wasn’t impressed. He’d scowl and growl and generally do his best to look ornery and intimidating (he was a four pound fluff ball but in his mind he was a full-fledged hell hound). He kept his eye on Sean for a bit, but he made it clear they were friends. That said, Herbie will never let Sean forget that it’s me and Herbie who are the original members of this household, and Sean’s just lucky we let him in the club. Now we have 3 more dogs because we can’t get enough. And this movie definitely put me in the mood for more. I mean, a gentle wind can put me in the mood for more. I Do Love Dogs! But I live in a city where the bylaws actually state that acquiring a fifth animal would force me to declare myself a farm. And as much as I Super Duper Love Dogs, it seems like a lot of hassle. Or…is it maybe a little bit of hassle and an excellent tax write off? Or a medium amount of hassle and a whole lot more love in my life? Or quite a bit of hassle but a good excuse to buy cute cowboy boots? Or a heck of a lot of hassle that I can offload on Sean, and simply reap the rewards of puppy love while outsourcing the work?
Did I just talk myself into puppy #5?