If there one thing that can be said of Tom Vaughn’s horrendously hackneyed romantic comedy Lessons in Love, is that it plays up affectionately to the tropes of the genre at hand, revelling in the traditionalist, conformist aspects. Problem is, we’re dealing with a genre that is desperately needing an injection of ingenuity in order to be maintained. We’re bored of the generic, cliched rom-coms, the running through airports sequences hoping to catch your lover before it’s too late fodder – it takes something creative and different now to appeal to us, like Ruby Sparks or Trainwreck. Creative and different, however, this most certainly is not.
The film revolves around the oh-so-difficult life of Cambridge poetry professor Richard (Pierce Brosnan), who has made the perennial mistake of falling for a student of his, Kate (Jessica Alba). Though without any intentions of prolonging this affair, taking hinters from his Lothario father (Malcom McDowell) in that regard, when Kate discovers she’s pregnant, Richard decides it’s time to commit, and so moves out to LA to raise his child. But his picture perfect scenario doesn’t last too long, particularly not when he realises his fondness for his partner’s sister, Olivia (Salma Hayek).
Considering this film is aimed, primarily, at a female demographic, rarely will you see a romantic comedy more patently written by a man, and then consequently directed by a man. Seen though the male gaze for starters (epitomised in the gratuitous Hayek nude scene) – Richard’s conniving, womanising ways are romanticised somewhat, forgiven throughout because it’s all a bit charming, as women, generally half his age, persistently fall at his feet.
But the age difference between Brosnan and his varying lovers represents a whole set of other issues that are deep ingrained in Hollywood – where men can be whatever age they please, but all the women have to be younger, more glamorous. It makes for a film devoid of any chemistry at all – but when compared to Danish rom-com Love is All You Need, which Brosnan also starred in, it had a romance we could invest in and abide by, it wasn’t just some middle-aged bloke with a young American student. There was more to it.
It’s also hard to pity the character of Richard in this endeavour. He’s supposed to be an empathetic lead role, our entry point into this world that we can adhere to, but he’s swanning around in his LA mansion he didn’t pay for, with two beautiful woman orbiting around him, while he has obtained a rewarding, highly paid job. Woe is me.
You do feel a tiny bit sorry for him when he’s to be separated from his only child, and there’s one scene where he’s just granted an hour to see him, in which he proceeds to recount the entire story that we’re seeing play out in front of us. Now, while it’s nice he gets to spend some time with his son, there’s no doubt that his kid, and the viewer, would have appreciated it had the police limited this visit to a mere quarter of an hour – saved us all the bother.