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  • 15
  • Comedy, Romance
  • 2004
  • 92 mins

The Truth About Love

The Truth About Love

Synopsis

Jennifer Love Hewitt stars in this romantic comedy of mistaken identity and erotic surrogacy for the text-message age

About

The song that opens The Truth About Love is Frank and Nancy Sinatra's 'Somethin' Stupid', as reinterpreted by Robbie Williams and Nicole Kidman. The point, no doubt, is to suggest that the film, like the song, will be a romantic classic archly updated for today's audiences. In fact, John Hay's second feature turns out to be a derivative mess that never manages to rise above its over-familiar materials or to deliver any truths about modern love beyond pure cliche (men can be shallow, dishonesty is bad, etc.). Sure enough, that phrase 'somethin' stupid' will end up haunting the film for all the wrong reasons.

Drunk on the eve of Valentine's Day, Archie (Scott) sends an anonymous love letter (and some radish seeds - huh?) to Alice (Hewitt), the wife of his best friend Sam (Mistry). Not sure where the magic has gone in their relationship, Alice decides to send Sam her own anonymous (and uncharacteristically raunchy) Valentine's, to see how he will respond. He does not mention it to her, and so, spurred on by her worldlier sister Felicity (Miles), Alice takes her masquerade further and further, hoping that it is all a game between lovers - until some unexpected truths are revealed about Sam's poor grasp of fidelity. Still, there is always Archie...

It would take a special kind of actress to make Alice's irrational behaviour seem remotely plausible - and Hay clearly thought he had hit the jackpot with American sex symbol Jennifer Love Hewitt, who had just starred in straight-to-DVD British romance If Only (2004).

Certainly The Truth About Love makes the most of Hewitt's celebrity presence, punning on her middle name in its title, and endowing Alice with a coyness about nudity ("a little mystery never did any harm") for which the performer herself is well known. Hewitt, however, seems to have invested so much effort into making her English accent credible that she has forgotten every other aspect of characterisation.

Dougray Scott's character is similarly bland with the film having to resort to (repeated) scenes of Archie working on his old boat ("I just want to see her sail again") as clumsy shorthand for his grounded, nice-guy status, while Mistry's Sam is a "love-rat" trapped in his own caricature. By the time the film has meandered into its gratuitous final sequence at Bristol's main station, you will have lost all ability to care. Only Branka Katic, as Sam's lover Katya, emerges with any semblance of dignity.

To be fair, Hewitt and her co-stars are hardly well served by the committee-written screenplay, which veers from tiresome banality to cringeworthy 'sexiness'. Witness the scene in which Alice and Archie give a running commentary on a hardcore film, with flirty-dirty double-entendres that would not make the grade even in genuine porn.

If nothing else, this film's seedy, sniggering mode of eroticism reminds us why sex is so often married to embarrassment in the British consciousness; but what is missing, crucially, is wit and warmth, leaving the leads with no chance to generate the empathy needed to engage viewers. At least first-timer Graham Frake's confident cinematography ensures that this empty picture comes in an elegant frame - if, that is, you can close your ears to the overloud, unsubtle soundtrack.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Kate Miles, Dougray Scott, Simon Webbe, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Karl Howman, Emma Noble, Jimi Mistry, Branka Katic
  • Director: John Hay
  • Screen Writer: Peter Bloore, William Johnston, Colleen Woodcock, John Hay, Rik Carmichael
  • Writer (Story): Peter Bloore
  • Producer: Tracey Adam
  • Photographer: Graham Frake
  • Composer: Debbie Wiseman, Len Arran

In a nutshell

The truth is, no matter how pretty this picture may be to look at, nothing can conceal its singular lack of humour or heart.

by Anton Bitel

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