tue 25/06/2019

Life Itself review - epically vapid | reviews, news & interviews

Life Itself review - epically vapid

Life Itself review - epically vapid

Portmanteau film trades almost exclusively in platitudes

Deadly: Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac in 'Life Itself'

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade: that bromide is about the only one absent from the astonishingly bad Life Itself, which in actuality might require a stiff drink to make it through the film intact. Folding together an interconnected set of stories told across continents and out of sequence, writer-director Dan Fogelman (of TV's This Is Us) hurls one tragedy after another at his hapless characters, none of them so serious that they can't be caught up in the tidal wave of triteness. By the time we're informed, near the end, that "life brings you to your knees", you may well be full of devotion that the final credits are about to roll. 

A separate bromide mentions the capacity of life to "surprise", in which case the prevailing question here is how the likes of Oscar Isaac, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas ever responded to this material. Isaac bears the brunt of the opening reel, playing the newlywed husband, Will, of pregnant wife Olivia Wilde. Given to pouring Xanax and booze into his coffee, Will has a habit of wailing Bob Dylan at top volume and a therapist in Bening, an actress whose ongoing alertness remains undimmed no matter her surroundings. Bad things are set to befall Will, but "we'll get to that"  or so goes the sort of voiceover narration that alone makes one wonder how this script ever survived a first readthrough.Antonio Banderas in 'Life Itself'Leapfrogging between time and place and four separate but interwoven "chapters", the story spins onwards so as to include Will and Abby's child grown into adulthood and played by Olivia Cooke as a Whole Foods obsessive who wears her vegan tendencies as if rattling an invisible sabre. The narrative contorts itself this way and that, playing with fake news to such a degree that Donald Trump's daily rants seem a model of clarity by comparison. One breathes a comparative sigh of relief come the Spanish sequences  why Spain? Don't ask  that are pictorially interesting (how could Andalusia not be?) and allow Antonio Banderas to return very literally to home soil as a landowner ensnared in a love triangle that won't end prettily. Because, hey, life doesn't work that way. Yawn. 

The voiceover narration alone makes one wonder how this script ever survived a first readthrough

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