LIFE OR SOMETHING LIKE IT
Director: Stephen Herek
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Edward Burns, Tony Shalhoub, Christian Kane, James Gammon, Melissa Errico, Stockard Channing
MPAA Rating: (for sexual content, brief violence and language)
Running Time: 1:37
Release Date: 4/26/02
Review by Mark Dujsik
Life or Something Like It may be the first movie that portrays a week in the life of its main character that actually makes you feel as if a week has passed. But what can you expect from a movie with a title like this? I’m assuming the "or something like it" part is a subscript, but there’s no sign of differentiating it from "life." If you read it out loud, the only way it makes sense is by putting a pause in between these sections, and in writing, a colon would be the best way to establish it. If there’s an award for worst grammar in a movie title, this is the front-runner for 2002. The movie itself doesn’t fare too well either. It contains the humor, characterization, poignancy, and intelligence of a bad sitcom.
Lanie Kerigan (Angelina Jolie) is a successful sports reporter for a Seattle news program. She has a famous baseball player for a boyfriend and is given the opportunity to be promoted to the national morning program "AM USA." The catch: She must leave her cushy desk job and go out in the field to do some on-camera work (pretty redundant, since her job is already on-camera work). Her boss puts her on assignment with Pete (Edward Burns), a supposedly quirky cameraman. They don’t get along too well because they had a very short fling. For one of her reports, Pete brings her to Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub), a homeless man who claims to hear the voice of God. Despite not believing him, Lanie asks whether or not she will get the promotion. He answers no, and during the interview he also predicts that the Seattle Seahawks will win their game that night, it will hail the following morning, and Lanie will die in a week. The first two predictions come true, and now Lanie is scared the third will as well.
Sound like the perfect setup for an episode of a sitcom? The typical conventions are all there—the most obvious being the stock characters. Lanie is the usual workaholic who puts everything after her job. The only thing really wrong with her life is her relationship with her family. Her sister is married to a rich man and seems to have the perfect life. The father sits around looking pathetic and completely out of it. We know the movie tries to treat these subplots seriously because of the melodic and atmospheric music on the soundtrack. Pete is the practical joker. On Lanie’s first assignment, he fixes the microphone so that her voice is at a higher pitch. Everyone around her can hear it, which is impossible unless this microphone has its own speaker. She also has a friend and co-worker whose sole purpose seems to make semi-witty rejoinders to anything Lanie says and disappears once she is of no more use. Then there’s Lanie’s boss who must be the most incompetent TV producer ever, either that or the screenwriters have no idea how television works. Considering the microphone gag, I assume the latter.
The list of deviations from reality is too long to get into, but note these most obvious ones. First and foremost is the fact that Lanie actually has a job. She storms away from the report with the rigged microphone, openly mocks her interview subject (Prophet Jack), and abandons any semblance of journalistic objectivity by leading a drunken sing-along to the Rolling Stones’ "Satisfaction" with a group of striking bus drivers. If you can believe it, the last stunt actually lands her the promotion. Then there’s the climactic interview with another TV interviewer. The interview consists of only two questions and constitutes about a minute of airtime. If this woman is so important, wouldn’t they give her at least ten minutes and not assign the reporter they are testing out to do the interview?
At one point the movie establishes that it’s Monday, and we realize that we have to follow Lanie through the entire day. But that’s not the end of it; we have to put up with this until Thursday. In between, she doesn’t do anything so far out of the ordinary for a woman who is convinced that she is going to die. Does she change because of anything that happens? Not particularly, but we were never given a chance to care about her in the first place. This is Angelina Jolie, too—a strongly charismatic actress. Does she die? It doesn’t matter, and the real question is how the screenwriters will get out of the situation they’ve set up. They don’t disappoint; it’s cheap in a bad sitcom sort of way.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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