Anyone heading to the cinema this February 14 will find themselves conspicuously catered for by this romantic comedy from veteran
(‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Beaches’). Throwing out a net to everyone from back-row teenage saliva-swappers to seasoned seniors, the film feels like it has been coldly calculated to hoover up demographics. How? Marshall gives his rom-com the Robert Altman ‘Short Cuts’ treatment: an enormous megawatt ensemble cast appear in a dozen or so interlocking lurve stories that play out on Valentine’s Day in Los Angeles. It’s supremely efficient and utterly ruthless.
There are 19 all-star names above the title (in alphabetical order, naturally) but the lead belongs to
. A nice-guy florist, he proposes to his work-addict girlfriend (
), but is obviously much better suited to his teacher best friend (
(is it me, or are the Jessicas interchangeable?) plays a neurotically single sports publicist.
, an office temp who moonlights as a phone sex operator (little nod to ‘Short Cuts’ there), hasn’t told her new boyfriend about the sideline.
, happily married for 50 years, is keeping an old secret from her husband. In what reeks of final-draft add-on, country star Taylor Swift and
from ‘The Twilight Saga’ pair up as school sweethearts: no actual storyline here, but they tick the pre-teen box big time.
These are sassily-scripted but glossy, vacuous fantasies – with the exception of
’s army captain, who’s on short leave from Iraq and meets a guy (
) on a plane: after some sparky but non-committal flight banter they go their separate ways and both their tales resolve with unexpectedly lovely flourishes. Their stories make the rest of the film look like it’s got a cold, shiny cash register right where its heart should be.