Unabashed party girl, Kim, is in for a rush of reality after a one night stand results in unexpected motherhood. Clearly not ready for the dating "buzz kill" that having a baby can bring, Kim eventually comes to realize that being a good parent to a precious little boy has its own rewards...Written by
L!fe Happens is the latest in a string of chick flicks that aspire to shirk the norms associated with the genre by being more "realistic" and "relatable", presenting life as it, well, happens instead of hitting us in the face with a shirtless Matthew McConaughey. Notice the subversive exclamation mark taking the place of the "i" in "life"? How clever! Doe-eyed Krysten Ritter, a quirky-cute girl in the Zooey Deschanel mould, plays the main character, Kim, and co-authors the screenplay with director Kat Coiro.
Kim and her housemate Deena (Bosworth) engage in a night of debauchery with a guy they each bring home, but lo and behold there's only one condom left, and Deena gets it. As a result, Kim gets pregnant and becomes a single mum, living with Deena and other housemate, the ditzy Laura. Kim juggles motherhood with a job as a dog-walker working under mean boss Francesca (Kristen Johnson), and inadvertently lies about her mummy status to Nicholas (Geoff Stults), a cute guy she meets. Hilarity and drama supposedly ensue.
Now wait a minute – forgive this reviewer if he's mistaken, but that sounds exactly like sticking to chick flick norms. The movie tries so hard to have a hip, indie feel that it slides ever so noticeably down the slippery slope into slickly-packaged, commercialised rom-com territory. You've got the free-wheeling heroine who is suddenly saddled with the responsibilities of single motherhood, the slightly bitchy best friend who also happens to be an advice columnist, the chain-smoking, wine-guzzling boss who treats the heroine like garbage, the hunky prospective love interest whom the heroine misleads and, last but not least, cute dogs.
Despite having something of a plot, the movie unravels rather aimlessly, like the cameraman is hanging around capturing stuff as they, well, happen. The audience gets inundated with inane pop music and the movie awkwardly lurches from comedy to drama. For example, Kim and Nicholas are in the middle of their requisite love scene when something, uh, happens – something that wouldn't be out of place in a gross-out Farrelly Brothers comedy. The filmmakers milk (you'll appreciate the pun after watching the scene) the inherently comedic moment for all the pathos it's worth – the couple argue, Kim stumbles out and drives home, confused, gets into a fight with Deena once she gets home and even gets an angsty bath complete with running mascara. All that's missing is Simple Plan in the background wailing "how could this happen to me?!" The characters are also paper thin, which is unfortunate as the film could have been infinitely better if we cared a little more about them. Admittedly, Ritter is a watchable leading lady and is plenty charming and likable as the protagonist, though one gets the impression she might be better as a slightly meaner character, like the one she now plays on TV in the sitcom Don't Trust the B--- in Apartment 23. The bitchy-best-friend archetype has been done to death, and done better than Kate Bosworth's ham-fisted attempt. The script also finds every excuse to put Rachel Bilson in skimpy outfits, and takes a stab at satire when her character joins a reality TV show where the last virgin standing wins. Justin Kirk does manage to be quite funny, even though the creepy, socially mal-adjusted character who develops an obsession with Deena has also been done to death.
To its credit, the movie did elicit a few chuckles, if only because the humour is so out of left field. When a non-sequitur hurtles out of the screen, it's a fairly pleasant surprise – while the premise and the characters seem tired and a little old, the jokes don't. For example, Kim gushingly compares Nicholas to a Greek statue, when Deena reminds her that they are typically not very well-endowed and Kim's mother-and-baby yoga classmate shows her with a wacky, disturbing children's book she's working on.
As hard as it wants to separate itself from the pack, L!fe Happens can't shake off the time-honoured chick flick conventions it carries around on its back like Kim's baby Max. Ironically, if it weren't trying so hard, maybe it could have worked. But alas, that's life for you.
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