Life Itself is directed by Dan Fogelman. The film stars Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening, Samuel L. Jackson, and Antonio Banderas. This movie is not to be confused with the 2014 Roger Ebert biopic of the same name.
Will and Abby seem like the perfect couple as they grow close and get married, with Abby ending up pregnant, but an unexpected tragedy strikes. Elsewhere, another witness to the tragedy which shook up their lives faces his own struggles which stem from the same event.
Writing a conventional plot summary for Life Itself is difficult to do without spoiling anything, and the movie itself doesn’t help things with its unconventional approach to storytelling. Unfortunately, the movie is a gigantic mess with tonal inconsistencies galore, far too many stories, and endless tragedies which never seem to stop. Come on. Even the most plagued and afflicted of Hollywood characters, even if they’re not suited for a happy ending, get SOME kind of relief once in a while. While many elements of the production had potential, including an A-list cast, it doesn’t change the fact it’s a film that goes nowhere, does nothing, and wastes its two-hour run time in every imaginable way.
The one thing I’ll give Life Itself is that it’s a well cast film. Had the movie decided to stick with Will and Abby, who actually have a decent amount of on-screen chemistry and some funny and emotional scenes, it could’ve been something better. Names like Annette Benning and Mandy Patinkin are criminally underused. Even the casting in the “B-story” following a lower-class working family in Spain may have worked better as a standalone film.
As is, the movie introduces us to characters we want to love, but jumps around far too much in time with a frustrating non-chronological narrative which only loosely connects the two main stories. Hell, the two initial lead characters dress as Pulp Fiction characters in one series of scenes, but this movie has far less a grasp on that film’s far superior stile of non-chronological storytelling. Put simply, there are great names on board for the movie, but it’s a tonally inconsistent mess with two movies slapped together which don’t belong together. Attempts to connect the story in the finale feel lazy and rushed.
The movie struggles to balance humor and more emotional elements. When a movie has a sad story about people who die under unfortunate circumstances, but the same movie has a dog named Fuckface (seriously, I’m not making this up!) and horrible jokes about pregnant women and eating, it’s hard to tell who the film was made for.
Life Itself can’t decide if it wants to be a romantic comedy-drama or a tale of love and loss overseas. Either approach developed as its own standalone film would’ve made for something far better than the end result we get here. The characters we want more of aren’t in the movie enough, and when they are, the tragedies don’t stop. Skip this one.
Rating: One star out of four.
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