Must Love Dogs

Must Love Dogs
Must Love Dogs

Theatrical Poster
Directed by Gary David Goldberg
Produced by Polly Cohen
Brad Hall
Ronald G Smith
Written by Claire Cook
Gary David Goldberg
Starring Diane Lane Brolin
John Cusack
Elizabeth Perkins
Christopher Plummer
Stockard Channing
Ali Hillis
Dermot Mulroney
Colin Egglesfield
Jordana Spiro
Music by Craig Armstrong
Susie Suh
Vinnie Zummo
Cinematography John Bailey
Editing by Roger Bondelli
Eric A. Sears
Distributed by Warner Brothers
Release date(s) July 29, 2005
Running time 98 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $30 million[1]
Box office $58,405,313[1]

Must Love Dogs is a 2005 romantic comedy film based on the book written by Claire Cook. It is the third film directed and written by Gary David Goldberg. The film, starring Diane Lane and John Cusack, was produced on a budget of $30 million. The film focuses on a woman's struggle with divorce and meeting new people afterward.

Production started on October 12, 2004[2] and the film was released on July 29, 2005. Critics opinions were mostly negative giving the general opinion that the actors were not to blame. Must Love Dogs took the fifth spot on its opening weekend and has grossed more than $58 million worldwide. The film was released on VHS and DVD on December 20, 2005.



Sarah Nolan, a preschool teacher, is confronted by her family because she is 40 and divorced. Her family wants her to date more and shows her photos of men they want to set her up with. Sarah does not seem interested in pursuing any relationships. Jake Anderson also was recently divorced and is in a similar position; he meets with his lawyer, Charlie, who wants to set him up with Sherry. Jake is not interested and would rather focus on creating his handcrafted boats.

Sarah's sister Carol visits and they discuss Bob Conner, a parent from school. Sarah is attracted to him but does not want anything complicated. Carol reveals she setup an ad for Sarah on an online dating site posting a picture of Sarah's high school graduation. The description declares she is voluptuous and her dates "must love dogs." Sarah goes on several disastrous dates with men who cannot stop crying, are criminal, or like girls who are only barely legal.

Jake is with Charlie at an art gallery where they meet Sherry, who is curious why he did not call her. Jake does not seem interested and Charlie thinks he is stupid. He pulls out a printout of Sarah's profile and tells Jake he has a date with her the next day at a dog park. Jake shows up with a borrowed Terrier and when he meets Sarah it is awkward. Jake starts analyzing her profile, offending Sarah, and reveals that the dog is not really his so she accuses him of being deceptive. He points out that the requirement was "Must love dogs" not "Must own a dog". Sarah leaves abruptly but agrees to see him again.

Sarah and Jake go on a dinner date where he asks her why she is not with her husband anymore. She explains that he just stopped loving her and that he was never ready to have children. Sarah acknowledges that her ex is now with a woman fifteen years younger than her with a baby on the way. The date progresses back to Sarah's house where they discover that neither has a condom. They hastily drive around but when they finally find protection neither of them is in the mood.

Jake and Charlie are discussing Sarah when he admits that she intrigued him. That night, Jake tries to call Sarah but has an emergency. Sarah checks to see if Bob is home but he is with June, and while fleeing, she drops her phone. Sarah arrives home finding a drunk Michael and Jake who were worried when she dropped the phone. Jake takes Sarah rowing and while teaching her they kiss. Jake takes Michael home while Sarah lights candles and sets the mood. Bob shows up instead of Jake to return her phone. While explaining the June situation he kisses Sarah just as Jake gets back.

Around Thanksgiving Sarah calls Bob and they go to a hotel and have sex. In the morning Bob is rude to Sarah and during the drive home admits he has actually slept with June. Jake is talked into taking Sherry to see Doctor Zhivago. Sarah notices Jake leaving, while discussing the film Sherry leaves the theater and Sarah realizes they are on a date. Sherry asks Jake up to her apartment, but he declines and instead walks home.

Jake runs into Bill, Sarah's father, outside a coffee shop. Jake confesses that he is heartbroken so Bill offers an introduction to his daughter but Jake declines. While drinking coffee with Sarah, Bill quotes something that Jake said. Sarah realizes that Jake was talking about her. She heads over to Jake's but he is out on the lake with his boat. Sarah tries to yell from shore but has to convince a rowing team to take her out to him. Approaching Jake he still does not hear her so she dives in and swims over to his boat. After climbing in Sarah tells Jake her feelings and they kiss.


  • Diane Lane Brolin as Sarah Nolan: Lane took the part because she wanted to do something different from anything she has done recently and wanted to keep the shoot local. She was extremely nervous about any improv that Cusack added to the film. When Cusack tried to make her improv she thought, "I don’t feel that confidence. I start blushing profusely and I get all sweaty and, I don’t know. Old school."[3]
  • John Cusack as Jake Anderson: Cusack was about to do another film in Europe but it fell through at the last minute. He met with Goldberg and after reading the script they asked him to be in the film. Impressed with the actors that were already signed on, Cusack thought, "that's a pretty great pedigree, so I was kind of happy to be asked to join such a great group." Cusack had always wanted to work with Lane and had been following her career for some time.[4]
  • Elizabeth Perkins as Carol Nolan: Kyra Sedgwick was originally cast in the part.[5]
  • Brad William Henke as Leo: Henke took the role because he "fell in love with the fact that it wasn’t a stereotypical character." The crew did not mind what the character looked like and he was able to play a normal guy.[6]
  • Stockard Channing as Dolly
  • Christopher Plummer as Bill Nolan
  • Colin Egglesfield as David
  • Ali Hillis as Christine Nolan
  • Dermot Mulroney as Bob Connor
  • Victor Webster as Eric
  • Julie Gonzalo as June
  • Jordana Spiro as Sherry
  • [[Glenn Howarton}]


Goldberg was first interested in starting this project when he found Cook's book. He thought it had a lot of humor and started working on getting the film rights.[7] Goldberg worked closely with Cook sharing all the draft copies with her and asking for input. He even included her in the casting process. Even though Cook only made it on set twice she was "so pleased with what they’ve done. It's really such a tribute to the book and just a great movie in its own right."[8]

Goldberg's "process is to just get an actor and then write and re-write and work on the set." Goldberg was constantly bringing new pages to the set while Cusack contributed ideas for him to work with. Cusack also performed in takes where Goldberg allowed him to say whatever came out of his mouth.[4]

Mother Teresa

"The dog in Claire's book wasn't a Newfoundland, but I'm crazy for Newfies; they have such sweet natures and their eyes are so expressive."

— Gary David Goldberg, director[7]

Goldberg chose a Newfoundland to play the part, even though it was a different breed in the novel. Mother Teresa was played by two females, Molly and Mabel. Lane explained, "Like with kids, they prefer hiring twins."[3] The dogs were chosen when they were only puppies and were trained by Boone Narr for several months before filming. During filming the dogs were still puppies, being 6 months old and 80 pounds. When production had ended Goldberg adopted both dogs.[7]


Critical reception

The film received mostly negative reviews receiving a 46/100 on Metacritic falling in the mixed or average reviews.[9] On Rotten Tomatoes it received a "rotten" rating with 35% based on 142 reviews and a general consensus that "Despite good work from its likable leads, the romantic comedy Must Love Dogs is too predictable."[10]

Roger Ebert thought that although Lane and Cusack are "two of the most likable actors in the movies" they "deserve characters that the movie takes more seriously and puts at more risk" giving the film two out of four stars.[11] Stephen Holden of The New York Times gave the film a negative review wondering how the actors were "bamboozled into lending their talents to the project." Stephen continued by saying the film has "contrived little incidents", "is so clueless", and "hopelessly clichéd and out of date".[12]

From a more positive review, Rolling Stone said that the film had a "great title and appealing performances" from Lane and Cusack. Giving the film three out of five stars they also said "Just when you think you have Goldberg figured, he springs fresh surprises."[13] Ann Hornaday from The Washington Post noted the film "works because Lane is one of those actresses who can do just about anything and still earn the audience's undying love." Hornaday mentions that the movie "features an enormously appealing supporting cast" and how well Lane and Cusack worked together on the film.[14]

Box office

Validating the critic's views, the film opened in the number five spot with $12.8 million in 2,505 theaters with an $5,131 average per theater.[1] Must Love Dogs stayed in the theater for twelve weeks, staying in the top 10 for its first three weeks.[15] The film has grossed $58,405,313, this placed it at number 66 for all films released in 2005.[1]

Home media

Must Love Dogs was released on December 20, 2005 on DVD and VHS.[16] The video "is lush but soft, and some artificial sharpening only adds insult to injury, doing nothing to alleviate the overall lack of fine detail." The audio is very standard and "wouldn't sound any different through a pair of headphones".[17] The extras are composed of four additional scenes lasting for about eight minutes with optional commentary from Goldberg. There is also a gag reel entitled "Pass the Beef" which lasts for about one minute.[18]


Must Love Dogs - Music from the Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Various Artists
Released July 29, 2005 (2005-07-29)
Length 42:44
Label Sony
Professional reviews

The reviews parameter has been deprecated. Please move reviews into the “Reception” section of the article. See Moving reviews into article space.

Track # Title Performer Length
1 "Brown Penny" Christopher Plummer 1:03
2 "When Will I Be Loved?" Linda Ronstadt 3:29
3 "The First Cut Is the Deepest" Sheryl Crow 3:47
4 "Hey There Lonely Girl" Eddie Holman 3:35
5 "Don't It Feel Good" Stephanie Bentley 3:29
6 "I Never" Rilo Kiley 4:31
7 "I'd Rather Be in Love with You" Susan Haynes 2:48
8 "Dance All Night" Ryan Adams 3:14
9 "Shell" Susie Suh 4:29
10 "What Kind of Love" Rodney Crowell 3:59
11 "Prelude/Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago" Erich Kunzel, Cincinnati Pops Orchestra 5:47
12 "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" Natalie Cole 2:52
13 "C'mon Get Happy!" Diane Lane, Dermot Mulroney, Stockard Channing, Elizabeth Perkins, Ali Hillis 1:03


  1. ^ a b c d "Must Love Dogs". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2009-04-22. 
  2. ^ "Must Love Dogs (2005) - Box office / business". IMDB. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  3. ^ a b Murray, Rebecca. "Diane Lane Interview". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  4. ^ a b Murray, Rebecca. "John Cusack Returns to Romantic Comedies with "Must Love Dogs"". Retrieved 2006-05-03. 
  5. ^ Murray, Rebecca (October 5, 2004). "Diane Lane and Kyra Sedgwick Love "Must Love Dogs"". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  6. ^ Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with Brad Henke at the World Premiere of "Must Love Dogs"". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  7. ^ a b c "Must Love Dogs". Official Site. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  8. ^ Murray, Rebecca. "Interview with Author Claire Cook". Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  9. ^ "Must Love Dogs (2005): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  10. ^ "Must Love Dogs Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  11. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 29, 2005). "Must Love Dogs". Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  12. ^ Holden, Stephen (July 29, 2005). "Must Love Dogs (2005) Taking a Long, Winding and Bumpy Road to the Magical Intersection of Mr. and Ms. Right". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (July 22, 2005). "Must Love Dogs : Review". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  14. ^ Hornaday, Ann (July 29, 2005). "'Must Love Dogs': One Tail-Wagger of a Romance". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-04-23. 
  15. ^ "Must Love Dogs (2005) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-12-17. [dead link]
  16. ^ "Must Love Dogs - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  17. ^ Chambers, Bill. "Must Love Dogs - Widescreen DVD". Film Freak Central. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 
  18. ^ Puccio, John J. (February 3, 2006). "Review of Must Love Dogs on DVD". DVDTown. Retrieved 2009-04-26. 

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