Must Love Dogs – Woof!
Must Love Dogs – Woof!
By Madelyn M. Ritrosky-Winslow
Your spouse dumps you, breaks your heart, and gets a divorce. Sound wonderful? Well, when it ends up that your heart can not only bounce back but be filled with a greater love, then yes.
That’s the premise of Must Love Dogs, a fun romantic comedy starring Diane Lane (Sarah) and John Cusack (Jake). Their respective divorce proceedings have already occurred when the story opens, and the film makes online personal ads the wacky and, ultimately for the protagonists, successful dating arena. Since it is Sarah’s ad (actually posted by her sister), we see her on various disaster dates – stereotypical bad dates.
When Jake and Sarah meet, he is instantly interested. Sarah, however, is a bit scared of his nervous straightforwardness and penchant for droll philosophizing, as well as his obvious interest in getting to know her. This sets him apart from all her other dates, all self-absorbed men in one way or another who show no interest in truly getting to know her.
Of course, he also stands out because he is, after all, John Cusack and the other star of the film. Jake possesses a somewhat off-the-wall intensity, which certainly fits with Cusack’s onscreen persona. That is exactly what makes him a bit intimidating yet also so appealing to Sarah.
So they go out on a date, where they start to act on their mutual attraction but end up on a frantic nighttime search that kills the mood – a humorous sign that things are not going to proceed smoothly. In fact, another man and another woman have already entered the film as potential rivals for their affections.
Dermot Mulroney as Bob makes it a full-blown romantic triangle as a smoothly charming single father, and Sherry (Jordana Spiro) is a fun-loving young woman interestd in dating Jake. Ultimately, a serendipitous meeting between Jake and Sarah’s father, Bill, must save the day. In yet another great supporting role, Christopher Plummer plays Bill, a widower who decides to have some dating fun at the same time his daughter gets into her dating discombobulations.
Must Love Dogs is a refreshing romantic comedy for several reasons. The two lead actors and their characters are not twenty-somethings – they’re pushing 40. These are characters who have been married and divorced, fully experienced in matters of the heart and relationships. Lane and Cusack are certainly attractive people but they are not what I would call model-perfect. I’ll also add that this film acknowledges birth control/safe sex as part of responsible intimacy – definitely an onscreen rarity.
As with most romantic comedies, the characters have to vacillate between attraction and antagonism, self-disclosure and misunderstanding. This is what makes for the satisfying conclusion when they finally get things together. When I've truly enjoyed such a film and the characters come together only at the very end, it would be nice to have a little more of them together to wrap up the love story. That's the case here.
Must Love Dogs opens in theaters July 29.