out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
A Life Less Ordinary
Review by MrBrown
½ star out of 4
While the extremely peculiar A Life Less Ordinary does live up to its
title, a more appropriate moniker would be A Movie More Misguided, for this
confused, confusing attempt at romantic comedy is a most disarming disaster
from the talented Trainspotting team of director Danny Boyle, producer
Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge.
At the core of this strange film is a fairly basic--and, yes,
ordinary--premise. After Robert (Boyle regular Ewan McGregor), an aspiring
writer of trashy novels, is fired from his janitorial job at the Naville
Corporation, he kidnaps Naville's (Ian Holm) spoiled daughter Celine
(Cameron Diaz) and holds her for ransom. The joke here is that Celine is a
willing victim--her father threatened to cut her off financially, so she
wants revenge--and that she soon becomes not only an accomplice but the
brains behind the scheme, teaching the inept Robert a thing or two about
kidnapping... and, ultimately (didn't we see this one coming?), love.
So far, so mediocre. But mediocre is better than dreadful, which this
film is, thanks in no small part to the Hodge's contextual frame for the
romance. It turns out that God is displeased with the divorce and romantic
breakup rate on earth, so the chief of Heaven's police, Gabriel (Dan
Hedaya) dispatches two angels, O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy
Lindo), to earth to hook up Celine and Robert--or lose their angel status.
This conceit might have worked if the angel dimension played an integral
role in the entire picture. But it could have easily been cut without any
clear loss to the film; as it stands, it is simply a waste of time that
distracts from the romance at hand.
Not that there is much of a romance to begin with. Try as Diaz and
McGregor may, Celine and Robert are too one-note to become very endearing
characters. Celine is rich bitch; Robert is a dullard. As such, it is
quite hard for the audience to really connect with these two--then again,
they never seem to really connect with each other. When Celine and Robert
start to overtly act on their "feelings," it comes off more like something
scripted than anything natural.
But I am not exactly sure if Boyle and company's point was romance;
honestly, I am not exactly sure what they were trying to accomplish. Boyle
juices up the visuals with his characteristic razzmatazz, but it remains
just that--energy, not energy in service of a story or even acting. The
cast seems lost, especially Hunter, whose performance is so adrift as to be
baffling. And then there are the many eccentricities splattered onto the
film: some violent confrontations involving the angels, who are not exactly
angelic--in fact, they end up staging their own ransom scheme; some
mystical hokum in the climax; and a cutesy Claymation epilogue. Watching
much of A Life Less Ordinary is like being trapped in indie hipster hell,
stockpiling quirks in the name of cool. Instead, the film just gives
quirky a bad name.
My best guess as to what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish is an
atmosphere of warped womantic (yes, misspelling intended) whimsy, which
comes through in only one scene: an extended musical number where Celine
and Robert sing "Beyond the Sea" at a karaoke bar. After a verse or two,
the couple are magically dolled up in snazzy outfits and hairdos, and
engage in a spirited dance routine on the counter. The scene works not
only because of its relative simplicity but also because it does not try
too hard, just relying on the innate charm of the leads, allowing them to
build a romantic rapport. Alas, not nearly enough is built, for this
moment comes to an abrupt end.
I applaud any attempt to bring something fresh and unique to movie houses,
but sometimes even cleverness can reach overkill. A Life Less Ordinary
certainly delivers something "different," but by the time the film was
over, I was clamoring for A Life More Ordinary.
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