Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is a melodrama based on a novel of the same name by Michael Chabon’s wife Ayelet Waldman, and was written and directed by Don Roos, whose previous films Happy Endings and The Opposite of Sex met with moderate praise. (Roos also wrote Marley & Me and Single White Female, so his career track record is sort of all over the place.) Natalie Portman—who (thankfully) replaced Jennifer Lopez when shooting began in November 2008—plays Emilia, a Harvard law graduate who falls for her boss, Jack. He’s married to an OB-GYN and has a young son, William. Emilia and Jack begin an affair; he gets divorced from his wife (Lisa Kudrow), and he and Emilia have a baby together, whom they lose to cot death within a matter of days. The film flits back and forth between the present (Emilia’s rocky relationship with William post- the baby’s death) and the past (the affair and its ramifications, and the circumstances of the baby’s death).

While Portman delivers a rightly acclaimed powerful turn in the lead role, Kudrow drags the film down massively with a typically horrid, semi-comedic performance—which isn’t really her fault; she’s never been able to deliver lines in any other register. (In fact, her delivery makes it seem like she didn’t even bother to learn her lines.) Scott Cohen, who plays Jack, is like a sleepy, less charismatic version of Alan Rickman, while Lauren Ambrose pops up as one of Emilia’s friends. (Frustratingly, her character, along with a few others on the film’s periphery, is too quickly discarded.) Hampered throughout by mildly incompetent editing and largely unappealing cinematography, not to mention—in attempting to crowbar-in those flashbacks—some really confused pacing, Love and Other Pursuits is completely forgettable and, at best, a glib tear-jerker. It’s difficult to see why this was shelved for so long after it was completed, especially because it certainly doesn’t benefit from being marketed alongside Portman’s other recent features (Black Swan; No Strings Attached; Thor). In fact, it slots in at the bottom—though Your Highness might prove even worse.

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is out now on DVD from Roadshow.

Originally released as The Other Woman, the film had its title reverted in markets outside the US to match the book (and also to perhaps subliminally tie in with Love and Other Drugs?). In the process, it had a stupid tagline appended (“…can make you…the other woman.”) and lost a perfectly good poster that conveys more about the film (and is much nicer to look at) than the default three-panel DVD cover art it’s now stuck with.