Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Life or Something Like It

Lowdown: A workaholic news reporter learns she will die in a week's time.
It seems like the commercial TV channels have conspired to turn Friday night into some sort of a gentle, almost chicks' flick like movie night. Probably a good idea, given it's the night you unwind yourself off another exciting week at the office and into a couple of days where life revolves around you for a change. Which makes Life or Something Like It (a 2002 release) a suitable candidate for the time slot.
Suitable, but not enough to trick me into watching it yet. Not even Angelina Jolie in the lead role does that trick; she may be a good actress (a very good actress when the material allows her acting talents to surface), but to me she looks too made up to attract me to watch her in action just for the sake of her. No, in the case of Life or Something Like It it was the co-star that did the attraction: Edward Burns, whom I remember favorably from his own direction work in the simple yet charming She's the One (1996) and even more favorably from Saving Private Ryan, a film that is still one of my all time favorites.
Life or Something Like It puts Jolie in the role of an ambitious TV news presenter from a local Seattle channel. Opportunity for a national network position beckons, so she agrees to going back to work with her old cameraman with whom she had a breakup due to professional and not so professional issues in the past (Burns).
Then while covering a very professional item on a hobo with some prophetic powers, the hobo tells Jolie she will die in a week's time. In the face of such serious a prophecy (and the efforts made by the film to show just how unnaturally reliable the guy's prophecies are), Jolie starts looking back at her own life and questioning it: her relationship with her father, her sister, and her famous baseballer fiancé all indicate she is basically craving for attention; her career path indicates the same. So, what should we do with her life now that she has one week left in order to defy that prophecy?
The way Life of Something Like It deals with these seemingly heavy topics is rather clumsy. It is not at all subtle in presenting its answers, yet its answers are completely expected: family, true friends and love are what makes life worth living; career? Sure, but only while it serves the above. And guess what? Love is there right in front of you, etc etc (that is, add a few more things that hardly ever come true in life but do come true in American films).
The film's idea is not bad, it's the execution that is problematic. It's predictable, it holds the viewer by the nose, and it's also boring. And behind it all there is that looming question of "what is the meaning of life", a question that is compromised from the start by virtue of the fact it assumes there is meaning to life in the first place; we humans seemed to be obsessed with the notion that everything must have a purpose when clearly life lacks it (unless you call the survival of your genes a worthwhile purpose; I don't).
So to Life or Something Like It I say, please cut the bullshit and stop wasting my time.
Worst scene: Was it a case of truly bad editing or did Channel 9 cut off a bit of the film? I suspect I'll never know, but there is a scene where Jolie and Burns go through their typical rounds of arguments at work that make it seem they hate each other's guts. Then there is a cut, and the next thing you know we're watching Jolie wrapped up in a blanket and sitting on a sofa. At Burns' apartment. Excuse me?
Overall: A redundant waste of its stars' talent. 2 out of 5 stars.

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