Must love meaningless relationships to love film |

Must love meaningless relationships to love film

Special to the Daily Sarah (Diane Lane), left, and her sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) check out Sarah's online dating status in "Must Love Dogs."

Loving dogs isn’t so important here as embracing cheesy movies.While the potential is there, the expected cliches involving dogs and dating are mercifully absent from “Must Love Dogs,” a film that’s not so much about canines as it is about the sin of singlehood.Diane Lane (playing herself) is Sarah, a 40-year-old preschool teacher whose status as a single woman, eight months divorced, is viewed as something of a disease among her family.

From the opening scene of the movie, we see Sarah’s brother, sisters and father inundating her with dating options. Profiles of potential suitors are posted all over her refrigerator, ranging from magazine models her family offers to Google for her to married men who might be interested in having an affair. While the gimmick of the invasive family is somewhat amusing, the message that it’s far better for Sarah to hook up with a married man, or any available troll, than remain a single preschool teacher never really dissolves into satire. It is the film’s running premise.When none of the fridge cutouts pan out, Sarah’s sister Carol (Elizabeth Perkins) – whose own marriage is humdrum and nondescript – takes the liberty of posting her profile on the Internet, a scheme that also appears to aim at parody. The thin and slight Sarah is painted as “voluptuous” and other such adjectives that are the preferred vernacular of personal ads. Then again, Internet dating, as it turns out, is pretty serious business in this movie. Sarah’s father meets his most adoring girlfriend (of his small harem) online and she in turn, inadvertently elicits a cross-country cab visit from a 15-year-old Internet suitor who thinks she is his soulmate.

While Sarah’s ad works just like a fishing rod, none of her catches are particularly fetching. There’s the money-obsessed gangsta wanna-be, the emotional basket case who can’t finish dinner without bawling and the disappointed 60-year-old pervert who was hoping Sarah was 18. In the midst of this swarm is Jake, a 40-year-old fellow divorcee who builds sculls for a living (although we never know how he pays rent, since his boats never sell) and is jilted by the woman who left him. Jake (John Cusack, playing himself) is by far the saving grace of the film, and while he feels there is some connection when he and Sarah have a tension-filled “date” in the dog park with two borrowed dogs, Sarah isn’t initially taken by him.What’s sad for Jake is that Sarah goes through a multitude of other dates with toupee-wearing compulsive liars and self-absorbed fathers of her students before she finally decides – more by default than genuine interest – that Jake is the cream of the crop.There are some funny moments in this movie. In most ways, it’s cute and entertaining, and there are some ironic truths unveiled. Still, light-spirited or not, the story line condemns singlehood and suggests that any warm body by your side is better than none, regardless of intentions and with love entirely left out of the list of requirements.

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or, Colorado

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