Must Love DogsThe Story Line.Married for some time to a man she really loved, Sarah Nolan (Diane Lane) is now single. She was divorced by her husband who immediately married another woman and they are expecting a baby. This, in spite of the fact that during the entire marriage, Sarah had yearned for a baby. At divorce time she felt doubly betrayed. And very devastated.

Now alone for the past eight months following the divorce, Sarah’s depressed. She comes from a large family, a couple brothers and a couple sisters, all of whom are concerned about her. Her oldest sister signs her up on an internet dating service without Sarah knowing and, definitely, without her consent. Jake’s friend does the same for him at

After some really strange but funny date-blunders, Sarah meets Jake (John Cusack), in a local park; they both bring borrowed dogs. They connect emotionally and sexually, but Sarah gets scared. Jake is really, really intense, cuts right to the core to share his feelings and values and asks her to do the same. It terrifies her. She can’t; she would have to be much too vulnerable.

Sarah and Jake are on a date when Bob, a good looking, almost-single, father from the preschool where Sarah works, shows up at Sarah’s door while Jake is there. Jake jumps to the wrong conclusion. He thinks Sarah’s involved romantically with Bobby; Jake leaves. Sarah isn’t involved. But, she’s too unsure of herself to pursue Jake.

Gradually, Bob lures her, and she cooperates, into a one-night sexual encounter. Soon Sarah discovers that he’s also sleeping with her co-worker. She realizes that he manipulates and doesn’t have the depth or the values she yearns for. There are some really funny moments in this movie but with a deeper look we find two people, Sarah and Jake, just wanting to love and be loved.

Sorry, but I won’t tell you how the story ends; you’ll either have to see it or suffer.

Now, A Deeper Look.

Personality. Sarah’s such a Pleaser. How do we know that? (1) Sarah isn’t clear with herself, never mind anyone else, about what she wants in life. Sarah doesn’t know who she is yet; she’s emotionally drifting. Pleasers, like Sarah, are always too focused on giving others what they want. They UNconsciously think that if they keep others happy, the others won’t leave them. (2) Even if Sarah realized what she wanted in life, she wouldn’t feel good about saying it, because that would be too forward, too exposed, too vulnerable. Pleasers are used to taking care of other’s needs, not causing any ripples by asking for anything for themselves, and always being available to whoever needs them.

Jake is also a Pleaser, just shows it in a different way. Jake tries to make Sarah feel comfortable; he takes her to a casual restaurant where the owners are warm and inviting. He offers to take Sarah’s brother home when he’s drunk. So, in small ways he tends to her. And, that’s what Pleasing people do. Jake is just more active in his behavior than Sarah is.

** Just an aside: It’s really wonderful when two Pleasing people get together because it’s a fact that both people are going to be taken care of. This is unlike a couple where one person does most of the giving and the other does most of the getting.

As Sarah slowly steps out into the real world, she begins to learn about herself and what she wants, through some pretty gritty situations: (1) the one-night stand with Bob, a manipulative guy not mature enough for a deeper committed relationship; (2) a dating set-up with her own dad (that’s right, her dad); (3) a guy looking for a much younger woman, (4) a really depressed guy who cries at the drop of a hat, (5) another date with Jake that went better but was still too intense for Sarah.

There’s a great scene between Sarah and her sister after Sarah’s first date with Jake. Sarah says, “Jake’s an emotional man who actually talks. I don’t think I’m ready for him. He wants the whole dance and I’m just learning the steps.” So, she realizes that: (1) if she wants a deep relationship, she’ll have to risk being vulnerable again, and (2) she’s afraid to learn, at least right then. But, as some months pass, her feelings for Jake and her appreciation for him grow

Communication. One of the undercurrents of this story is that some people are just looking for a surface, definitely not deep, relationship. For example, the talk with Bobby is surface. He’s flirty, not interested or not capable (?) of exchanging thoughts or feelings on a serious level.

Jake, on the other hand, wants to really get to know Sarah and wants her to know him in a very genuine (not flirty way). He is a serious person who isn’t afraid of his feelings but, instead, embraces them and is able to express them. He’s a deeper person who won’t settle for surface.

I like this movie and if you like entertaining romantic comedies with a few easy subplots, you’d probably like it, too.

Warm wishes until next time,