Must Love Dogs

Cool and Airy

What does a filmmaker do to enrich a clich?d story about a beautiful middle-aged woman who has to turn to internet dating to find a man? Well, in Must Love Dogs, Gary David Goldberg simply writes some witty lines about contemporary sexual politics and directs an able cast headed by John Cusack and Diane Lane as the aging sweetheart wannabees.

Although the film is a veritable dictionary of stereotypes and genre staples: The colorful family, the handsome womanizer, the gorgeous woman without dates, the gay best friend, meeting cute and doing cute (speeding around town looking for condoms is, however, both cute and original). There is a freshness I haven?t seen since the older couple, Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, danced around in Something?s Gotta Give 2 years ago. Perhaps that imaginative zest is exemplified in the turnaround that has Cusack is obsessed with David Lean's Dr. Zhivago rather than Lane. More anti-stereotyping is needed to break up this genre's choke hold on the predictable.

It has been rumored that Cusack wrote his dialogue, but even if it weren't so, he can usually be expected to interpret modern anguished young men as thoughtful, brainy, and caught in a cultural climate favoring the athletic, beautiful, and superficial. As such, he is perfect as a poetic boat builder who hasn't sold a boat but floats yours with poetic sentiments and self-deprecation. And watch out for Jordana Spiro playing the daffy blonde: You'll see her again; I guarantee it.

Must Love Dogs is honest about the disappointments of Internet dating and just dating in general. Director Goldberg is a TV person, so I need to cut him some slack about the glossy game-show lighting and numerous examples of sitcom set ups and jokes. His film is cool and airy for the dog days of summer. You must love it.