It’s got to a point with the romantic comedy genre, where it needs some ingenuity and an injection of creativity in order to survive. We’ve grown tired of the hackneyed, mawkish offerings of old, to an extent now where they’re even parodied – in the likes of They Came Together, for example. Now, we need something new, to reinvent the genre somewhat, with triumphant offerings such as Ruby Sparks and Trainwreck. But Tom Vaughn’s Lessons in Love is stuck painfully in the past, and while the traditionalist aspects are affectionate in their implementation, it’s not exactly a genre we’re currently wanting to get nostalgic about.
We delve into the life of Cambridge poetry professor Richard (Pierce Brosnan), who enters into a relationship with his student, Kate (Jessica Alba). Though following on from his womanising father (Malcolm McDowell) and refusing to settle down into anything serious, he’s shocked to learn that his girlfriend is pregnant, and so he decides maybe it’s time to grow up, and moves out to LA to help raise their newborn son. It seems that old habits die hard though, as he can’t help but feel attracted to Kate’s sister, Olivia (Salma Hayek).
Though evidently aimed at a predominantly female demographic, here’s a romantic comedy that feels like it’s been written and directed by men. For starters, it’s generally from the male gaze and perspective (which leads on to a rather superfluous nude scene for Hayek), while feeling all too apologetic for his Lothario ways, romanticising over his misdemeanours, putting it all down to merely being ‘charming’ in an unbearable, Hugh Grant sort of way. But then Lessons in Love shoots itself in the foot, because it makes Richard the protagonist, but gives him so little empathy that we can’t invest in the tale at hand. Sorry, but it’s just impossible to feel pity for a man who lives in a gigantic LA mansion he hasn’t paid for, while two beautiful women orbit around him. Not to mention his well-paid job he’s somehow managed to transfer from London over to the States. Poor bloke.
What also doesn’t help engage the audience with this narrative, is the lack of any palpable chemistry between any of the respective pairings. Plus, just as the icing on the cake – and to further enhance the notion that this film feels as though it’s come straight out of 90s cinema (and not in a good way) – the lead child actor has that classic, Hollywood mullet that you spend the entire film just wanting to reach for, and cut off.