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Nerdlocker Movie Review: Life Itself

‘From the creator of This Is Us

If this is what This Is Us is like, you sobbing wet blankets can keep Life Itself and the television show.

By all accounts this should have worked. It has a lovely message, a stellar ensemble cast to convey that message and a supposedly strong creator behind the lense to bring it all home. Instead what we are given is a two hour long attempt to make everyone in the theater cry. Nearly every aspect of this story features death in some regard but simultaneously tries to tell everyone to cherish the happier times in life. It’s confusing quite frankly the chosen method of trying to show an appreciation for life and its unexpectedness but focusing so much on the end of it all. And I can’t even say that their attempt at making me cry even worked, it didn’t. I could appreciate the message but its overall goal always felt just out of reach for the film to truly grasp.

This is one of those stories that contains within itself lots of smaller stories all coming together in some kind of cosmic predestination. Instead of making you feel for this family as it ebbs and flows as any family does it just makes you feel sad for a family that encounters so much tragedy. From suicide to cancer to something as graphic as being annihilated by a bus this generational family simply cannot catch a break. By the end of the film your exhausted by the incessant waves of tragedy that beat you over the head trying to make your dead heart feel something.

Life itself, according to creator Dan Fogelman, is a giant cryfest that should be looked at as a lesson to grow from rather than die from even though everyone dies in this damn thing. It tries to show the moments we cherish as we’re in them and to brace for the curtain call so to speak. While a more balanced approach between them could have made for something special it just comes off as sappy and depressing.

The film is divided by chapters and by the third chapter you begin to decipher the formula of character introduction, character tragedy, and hopeful character growth; rinse and repeat for nearly two hours. Each chapter on their own are pretty interesting and the scenes featuring two people just trying to figure one another out can be emotionally effective. The story as a whole however, each chapter messily placed next to the others, is haphazardly edited together. And the culmination of everything being cosmically connected is underwhelming and drenched in melodrama.

My personal favorite chapter of the film is its first, the story of Oscar Isaac’s Will who must navigate his overwhelming love for the woman of his dreams, Olivia Wilde’s Abby. He must come to terms with being content about her damaged past changing their future together and what a reality without her in it might be like. Equals and opposites in all facets of life mean there is a uglier side to his unwavering love for Abby, whose future doesn’t seem so bright. How will he cope with the impending changes to his life? And how will his choices change the outcome of everything and everyone he brings into or encounters in the world? Begin chapter 2.

Again, the message is nice, it’s poignant but it tries too hard for too long to make the audience feel exactly what they want us feel. Instead of it feeling more organic and unexpected it feels heavy handed and steered in a very specific direction. It doesn’t allow you to follow because it’s pulling you. And it never earns the right to steer us toward the outcome it wants for us simply because it’s predictable and, I can’t stress this enough, so overly melodramatic it makes the eyes roll back into the skull out of pure ridiculousness. It’s greatest effort was to make the audience cry and it couldn’t even do that right. I can’t say that I hated this movie but I have no intention of watching it ever again nor will I recommend it to anyone. Maybe I hated it I don’t know.

And a small side note: The narrating style is distracting at times, and can even be downright annoying. But you get it, I’m not a fan.

Rated R For: language including sexual references, some violent images and brief drug use
Runtime: 118 minutes
After Credits Scene: No
Genre: Drama, Romance
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas
Directed By: Dan Fogelman

Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 2.5/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 2.5 Nerdskulls

Buy to Own: No

Check out the trailer below:


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"Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world"-Jean-Luc Godard