MOVIE: LIFE ITSELF
STARRING: OSCAR ISAAC; OLIVIA WILDE; ANNETTE BENING; OLIVIA COOKE
DIRECTED BY: DAN FOGELMAN
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
Life Itself is what I like to call a “this movie gets me” kind of film. The type of movie that makes someone in the audience say or think... “Hey, this movie gets me”. The audience can “see themselves” in the characters, where life looks glossy, beautiful, sad, and meaningful in every breath that each character takes. This may sound familiar because it's a movie that is the epitome of what people think movies can and should be. They see a “reflection” of what their life is, only it is very much not. Life Itself is written and directed by This is Us creator Dan Fogelman, and much like the tear jerky television show, he does everything in his power to earn the audiences tears. If he had it his way, he'd collect them in jars and put them on his mantlepiece. Instead, Life Itself is a sappy, crappy, movie about interconnected characters, where everything, and anything awful can happen to them. Hell, even the dog dies.
Divided into four chapters, Life Itself starts with Will (Oscar Isaac- in a role that is way below his pay grade), a depressed, sloven alcoholic who is meeting with his therapist Dr. Cait Morris (Annette Bening in a thankless role). He proceeds to tell his life story: the beginning of his college romance with Abby (Olivia Wilde), the fun times watching Pulp Fiction, Abby expressing her love for the music of Bob Dylan, their “oh so sweet” proposal, marriage, pregnancy, and Abby's untimely passing. This is how Will became depressed and we proceed to learn how their story is connected to everyone else in the film.
A movie like Life Itself can have its positives when done correctly. There's nothing wrong with a good cry. However, It's obvious that Fogleman's style of storytelling works better on a TV or a mini-series. The reveal of emotional, tragic family drama has an effect on the audience when slowly processing week to week. Here, it's one tragedy after the next, where the screen should have a scoreboard revealing the odds of which character will die next. Will loses Abby in horrific fashion, leaving daughter Dylan (Olivia Cooke) left to pick up the pieces of her parents past, along with gentle grandpa Irwin (Mandy Patinkin) as her guardian. For Dylan (And Olivia Cooke) her story gets the bluntest end of the stick, losing almost everyone around her...yes including the dog, and looking out of place in her teenage angst.
It is followed by the third and fourth chapters, which focuses on the Gonzalez family, whom live on an olive farm in Spain owned by Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas), and have an equally tragic filled narrative. Young Rodrigo will become traumatized by a horrific event he witnessed and his issues will divide his parents, leaving his mother alone, and Mr. Saccione left to care for them. Their story will circle back with a connection to the love of Will & Abby, connect the dots between the two families, and if Fogleman is lucky he's gotten you to cry at this point.
The final result is a movie that never feels genuine in a single move that it makes. Even the tragic deaths of certain characters are as dumb as they come, almost to the point where Fogleman seems to be having fun with how he gets to kill off people he wants us to love. I recently watched Steel Magnolias for the first time, and although that was a movie that could be sappy in it's portrayal of friendship, it at least had an honest core about how life can be unfair in friendship and tragedy. Life Itself is a painful, calculated mess of a film. There's no way I would ever watch this movie again. That would be more painful, than Life Itself.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady