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A reporter, Lanie Kerrigan (Jolie), interviews a psychic homeless man (Shalhoub) for a fluff piece about a football game's score. Instead, he tells her that her life has no meaning, and is going to end in just a few days, which sparks her to action, trying to change the pattern of her life... Written by
Greg Dean Schmitz
`Life, or Something Like It' is a romantic comedy with a better-than-average premise. It attempts to address the question `if you suddenly discovered that you might only have a week more to live, how would you spend that remaining time and what changes would you make to your life?' Perhaps because this IS a romantic comedy, the best the film can manage to do within the tight strictures of the format is to raise a few of the more provocative issues surrounding the theme those dealing with the meaning of life and the vagaries of fate, for example then drop them so it can address itself to the customary clichés one would expect to find in a film of this genre. One only wonders how a more serious-minded European filmmaker, for instance, might have tackled the same subject matter.
Angelina Jolie plays a beautiful, but thoroughly superficial and self-absorbed TV news reporter living a near-perfect life in Seattle. Indeed, when we first meet her, Lanie Kerigan seems to have everything going for her: stunning good looks, a glamorous profession, a handsome major league ballplayer fiancé, and now a major career advancement in the form of a regular spot on a national morning news program. One day, however, her world comes crashing in when she meets up with a homeless man on the street, a self-styled `prophet of God' who tells Lanie that she will die within a week. When all his other predictions begin to come true, Lanie realizes that this man may not be quite the lunatic or charlatan all her friends and acquaintances keep assuring her he is.
Given this setup, `Life, or Something Like It' can't help but grab our attention. We wonder how we too would react if such a horrifying scenario were to suddenly present itself in our own lives. The problem is that the movie doesn't really do much with the material it has to work with. Nothing Lanie does seems particularly thoughtful or meaningful when she is confronted with potentially imminent death: indulging in some halfhearted attempts to reconcile herself with an estranged sister and father, giving up her health-obsessive diet and exercise regimen, and dumping the fiancé with whom she discovers she has nothing in common. Considering the thematic potential of this material, the film always seems to be lagging several intellectual beats behind where it should be. This is particularly true in the predictable love/hate relationship she shares with Pete, one of her cameraman coworkers. Yet, oddly enough, it is this very pairing of Jolie with Edward Burns that gives the film its moments of greatest charm. Both performers are so likeable in their understated warmth and vulnerability that we can't help liking and rooting for their two endearing characters. Paradoxically, then, the film satisfies us most when it is at its least innovative. The movie is at its worst in an embarrassingly unconvincing scene wherein a boozed-up Lanie, sans makeup and carefully groomed coiffure, leads a contingent of striking workers in a rendition of `Satisfaction' in the middle of a live TV interview. Cloying moments like these merely serve to remind us that we are stranded in movie fantasy land when the film could, with a little more effort, have ascended to a much higher level. (The film, incidentally, endorses a rather reactionary view of women in the workplace, arguing that a woman needs to consider whether achieving success in the corporate world is worth sacrificing a chance at achieving marital and familial happiness a quandary that never seems to be posed to male characters in movies).
Despite the fact that it has moments of quality and charm, the film, ultimately, feels like a case of lost opportunity. One finds oneself leaving the theatre in a state of frustrating ambivalence: acknowledging that the film works on a level of superficial entertainment but knowing that, with a little more depth and insight, it could have amounted to so much more.
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