Life Itself (2018) Sept 23, 2018 17:38:32 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 23, 2018 17:38:32 GMT -5
Life Itself (2018)
Directed by: Dan Fogelman
Directed by: Dan Fogelman
Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac.
Dan Fogelman's Life Itself packs in some Earth-shattering revelations about, well, life itself. Allow me to share a few: when one door closes, another one opens, love can come out of tragedy, the people we meet actually have personal lives and stories of their own, and you never know who you'll meet and when. If you are familiar with any of these from other films or stock motivational posters you've glanced at in passing, then kindly skip this insufferable, sappy two-hour affair.
Life Itself is an anthology film for people who need to be spoonfed their stories and emotions to the point where subtlety might as well be a complete and total myth if it pertains to letting people figure out details and events for themselves. Divided into five chapters, the film opens by focusing on Will (Oscar Isaac), a disheveled man who is in the middle of writing a screenplay he knows is awful while staying fueled by a concoction of coffee, booze, and Xanax. He spends his afternoons in mandated therapy sessions, vocalizing his problems to Annette Bening that begin and end with him and his wife Abbey (Olivia Wilde) and their first child being born. We watch in flashback as Will and Abbey meet, date, fall in love, and attempt to carve a nice life for themselves, until tragedy strikes in the grimmest of ways, with two separate incidents eventually leaving their daughter Dylan (played by Kya Kruse when young and Olivia Cooke when she's a teenager) without her parents.
Fogelman, who also serves as the film's writer, abruptly transports us from New York City to Spain, where we meet Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta), a laborer working for the exorbitantly wealthy Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas). Saccione gives Javier a promotion big enough to allow him the financial wiggle-room to propose to his girlfriend Isabel (Laia Costa) and start a family by having their young son Rodrigo (Adrian Marrero when young, Àlex Monner during his teen years). Javier's family comes with their own drama in the form of young Rodrigo experiencing something traumatic and Isabel fighting off a debilitating sickness, which renders them caught up in the messiness of life. But have no fear, love will prevail, as it always does.
Infuriatingly mawkish and sentimental to the point of being as contrived as a Hallmark card, Life Itself is merciless in trying to extract emotions in the most obvious ways. Orchestral music chimes in just as Fogelman's camera remains fixated on character's faces as they still manage to look impossibly attractive despite ailments and personal trauma, with hopes you'll shed tears for a film that doesn't work to earn them. Fogelman makes characters so unwieldy, robbing them of any human qualities that aren't boldly dramatic, so much so that feeling sympathy for anyone is incredibly difficult. Compounding this is the frustration Fogelman inspires by making the entire experience feel like a didactic lesson in learning to ebb and flow with life — the ultimate "unreliable narrator" as Abbey calls it in a scene so phony it makes (or I should say "made") an English major cuss.
Desperately little else besides the film's frothy tone and emotionally obvious pandering is consistent with Life Itself, and two hours feels maddeningly overlong for a film that has nothing to offer but repackaged cliches disguised as sources of uplift. Fogelman made his directing debut with the Al Pacino film Danny Collins, a certainly sappy but overall well-made picture that explored the ideas of age and legacy. How Fogelman could show promise as a human-interest director and then go on to make something so utterly dismal in its attempt to resonate is beyond even my analysis.
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Àlex Monner, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Kya Kruse, and Adrian Marrero. Directed by: Dan Fogelman.