Hey, remember when you endured last week’s putrid ensemble The Big Wedding and decided you wanted a whole lot more where that came from? No? Don’t fret because nobody said that, but that’s mostly what you’re going to get out of Love Is All You Need, a romantic comedy for older folks that is so airy it’s likely to float away at the slightest gust of wind. At the same time, it’s so crammed full of sitcom comedy shtick that it’s a wonder all of it fit in a 2-hour window. At least it’s awfully pretty to look at, and a few moments of tenderness when it bothers to quiet down for a few minutes.
The oddity is in who is bringing us this lark of a film. Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier, the Oscar-winning director behind powerful emotional dramas In a Better World, Brothers, and After the Wedding, at times seems to be performing some sort of broad comedy experiment to see if she can pull something like this off. She gets some help from a top notch cast, but it’s really the gorgeous locale on the Italian Riviera that is the real star.
Framed around that most tired of rom-com fixtures, the grand family wedding, the story centers on one especially chaotic weekend where two mis-matched clans must come together for the sake of their kids. In the beginning we meet Ida (Trine Dyrholm), a married hair dresser who has just survived a bout of breast cancer, and is looking forward to her daughter Astrid’s (Molly Blixt Egelind) upcoming nuptials. Her good mood is crushed when she comes home to find her husband of 25 years with another woman. Oops. Pierce Brosnan, who must feel some sort of Mamma Mia deja vu (minus the singing, thank goodness), plays Philip, a businessman and a fellow lonely soul. A widower, he’s thrust his energies completely into his work, and left thoughts of love behind. He also happens to be the groom’s father, which makes it awkward when he and Ida literally crash into one another for the first time. Double oops.
And it goes from there, as Bier and her longtime writing partner Anders Thomas Jensen pile on one absurd obstacle after another. The groom is oddly upset that their lovely, palatial villa doesn’t have all of the furniture already in place, and launches into a whining screed about it. We’re supposed to relate to this guy? Ida’s husband shows up at the wedding with his lover, so cartoonishly oblivious that it’s tough to take him seriously. Philip’s aggressive harpy of a sister-in-law has the hots for him, and makes sure everybody knows it. Ida’s son shows up and can barely be restrained from kicking his father’s ass. Oh, and the groom might actually be gay. It’d be almost funny if it weren’t so exhausting, and the sad part is that’s hardly everything Bier throws against the wall to see what will stick.
Dyrholm is arguably Denmark’s most popular actress, and it’s easy to see why. She rises above the pedestrian script and creates a woman who seems like a real woman with insecurities, fears, and more than her share of odd quirks. Brosnan plays his role nicely, and finds some genuine chemistry with Dyrholm. It’s a pleasure to watch a love story about two older characters that doesn’t devolve into crass jokes involving Viagra. As mentioned earlier, the film really does find some emotional truth when it bothers to quiet down for a spell. It just doesn’t happen nearly enough. The rest of the characters are badly-drawn caricatures, nothing more. Love Is All You Need is by no means awful, but nor is it very good. It’s palatable, enjoyable fluff that will probably sell a few airline tickets.