Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Movie Review: "Life Itself" (2018)

Director: Dan Fogelman
Year: 2018
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes

The life, love, tragedy, and more tragedy that happens across generations of one family.

Life Itself 2018 Olivia Wilde Oscar Isaac
"Will loved his wife with an intensity usually reserved for stalkers." (Image Source)
"Life Itself" so desperately wants to make you cry that it is willing to achieve that goal in the laziest, most disingenuous way possible. This melodrama is written and directed by Dan Fogelman. This is his second feature film directorial effort, the first being "Danny Collins" (which we actually enjoyed). Fogelman is better known as the creator of the melancholy NBC drama "This Is Us." This story is focused on two couples and their children: college sweethearts Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde), who are living in New York, and Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) and Isabel (Laia Costa), who are farm workers living in Spain. Various circumstances arise that will eventually connect these two families, though they have both already faced and will continue to endure mountains of tragedy along the way to their eventual association. There are also a lot of Bob Dylan references, several nods to Quentin Tarantino and "Pulp Fiction," and some wildly inappropriate and unfitting dark humor about dead parents...so there's that.
Life Itself 2018 Alex Monner Antonio Banderas
"I'm Bob Dylan, you're not. Eat a dick." (Image Source)
"Life Itself" is one of those movies that thinks it's offering viewers a deep introspection on life, but isn't nearly as profound as it thinks it is. It babbles on and on about unreliable narrators, about how it's the little moments of chance that shape our whole lives, and how all of the love and misery these characters experience relates to (and is the fault of??) Bob Dylan's 1997 comeback album "Time Out of Mind." This is the sort of movie that wants the audience to bawl their eyes out and be sad while watching it, and its principle method of doing so is to kill people over and over and over. This may be a bit of a spoiler, but don't get attached to too many characters here because chances are, they are going to die or at least disappear from the story without a trace. The characters of "Life Itself" would probably have better survival odds if they were in "Game of Thrones" or "The Walking Dead" because this flick has a higher body count than most horror movies, not to mention one of these deaths is literally shown multiple times to really grind in, really reinforce the notion that this person is dead dead, not like sort of dead, but really fucking dead. Oh, did we mention that it's reallyreally sad that they are deceased?!? Wait...Lolo? BigJ? Wait...you're not buying this mawkish bullshit??! WHY AREN'T YOU CRYING, ARE YOUR SOULLESS, YOU JUST DON'T UNDERSTAND HUMAN EMOTION!!!! Fogelman piles on the dead bodies and all of the baggage death brings so he can hedge his bets that at least someone, just one person in the audience, will cry. Yeah, killing off characters can be sad, but we would probably be sadder if we were actually connected to or related to any of the characters that get dead before they kick the bucket. Fogelman truly fails at getting the audience to attach themselves to any of the people in this story! Instead of focusing on a couple of them intensely, he skimps on the details and hopes we connect with the deaths more than we do with their lives, which is pretty fucking ironic considering THIS MOVIE IS LITERALLY CALLED "LIFE Itself." It's not honest, it's not genuine, and it sure as shit ain't realistic. Oh, and did we mention that the beginning 10 minutes of the film involves Samuel L. Jackson awkwardly acting out the screenplay written by one of the characters in one of the most tonally jarring openings to a film we have ever experienced? Yeah, this movie is an utter mess. The actors do a decent job with what they have to work with, but it's not much. We can imagine it'd be hard to make this script work considering the way the story is told. If you don't have multi-level/altered timeline storytelling down to a science like Christopher Nolan does, it's almost a guarantee that your movie will make you look like a hack.
Life Itself 2018 Laia Costa Sergio Peris-Mencheta
"You jerk off to your therapist, you should be institutionalized." (Image Source)
When the knee-jerk reaction after a film ends is to compare it to "Collateral Beauty," a similarly disingenuous, flawed, and deceitful flick, you know you're in trouble. If you liked that hodgepodge of a movie, chances are, "Life Itself" will work for you, too. No less than four of the adult women seated around us were bawling their eyes out, so we guess Dan Fogelman got his wish. Us? Well, we suggest you watch literally anything else. I am the target audience for this movie, and even I was appalled by its clumsiness.

My Rating: 2.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 2/10
IMDB's Rating: ~5.5/10
RT Rating: ~11%
Do we recommend this movie: AVOID LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!

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