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LIFE AS WE KNOW IT, 2010
Movie Reviews!


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LIFE AS WE KNOW IT, 2010 MOVIELIFE AS WE KNOW IT, 2010
Movie Reviews

Directed by Greg Berlanti

Cast: Christina Hendricks, Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas, Melissa McCarthy, Jean Smart, Faizon Love

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Review by Jen Frankel

SYNOPSIS:

Two single adults (Heigl and Duhmael) become caregivers to an orphaned girl when their mutual best friends die in an accident. Heigl and Duhamel play the unweds who, having one bad date between them, and reunited after the tragedy. (We're kind of amazed they haven't co-starred before.) TV vet Greg Berlanti (from "Dawson's Creek" to "Brothers & Sisters") is behind the camera.

Release Date: 8 October 2010

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REVIEW:

“Life As We Know It” meanders through a set-up determined to put Josh Duhamel and Katherine Heigl together in a situation in which they will, eventually, fall in love. There’s no surprise in this; it’s pretty much guaranteed in the trailer, which doesn’t leave much in the way of surprise.

This isn’t a big deal – it’s almost standard for the typical rom-com that is long on charm and short on innovation. Besides, it’s the rule that you WANT the leads to get together. Watching two pretty but hopeless people find love is the grist that turns the rom-com mill.

This outing is no worse or better than most of its ilk. It’s saved from being a TV movie by a higher class of actor and a slightly more sophisticated shooting style, although it’s probably more valid to call it “technique” than “style.” There’s not much of an attempt to give any kind of layering or atmosphere beyond “here’s a nice looking place, shot to make it look pretty.”

The story is the same. You know what’s going to happen in the end because you saw the trailer, and the method of getting there is – just – enough to keep you in your seat to the end.

Heigl, who also produced the film, and Duhamel have chops and charm, but there’s not really a lot of sophistication to the characters or the plot either. And there are a few stand-out annoyances as well.

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Is there some kind of rule that the character Katherine Heigl plays in a romantic comedy has to be a full-on A-type control freak? In “Life As We Know It,” she is credited as a producer as well as the lead, so you figure that it’s as much a choice as a script necessity.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that she’s so funny, and so naturally charismatic when, as if the cliches are so important that they’ve become essential, her funny scenes set-ups involve challenges to the anal part of her personality or outrageous clumsiness (in this case leading to a vehicle crash – in light of the fact that the film turns on the death of two friends in a traffic accident, it doesn’t seem like a particularly tasteful idea). The idea that girls are only funny when they bitch or screw up (witness Julia Roberts’s obligatory falling down or tripping scene in every comedy she’s done) is insulting to say the least, and pretty damn untrue, when you realize that Heigl has made you laugh by her delivery and timing, without the need of mayhem. Slapstick is fine, but this is not the Stooges, and there’s no need to go there when it adds nothing to the characters or plot.

The story, what there is of it, is fine enough. Two people who loathe each other but love their friends’ little daughter are given the responsibility for the child’s care when her parents die in an accident. They agree to share the girl’s rearing and the family home, but not each other’s beds.

To play into more annoying stereotypes, the man has a constant stream of sexual encounters while the woman’s sole romantic interest takes forever to get underway. He’s a manchild; she’s an entrepreneur. She’s too serious; he’s not serious enough.

It’s okay, although obviously not earthshakingly fresh, until everything topples into the usual stereotyped patterns. Heigl’s Holly trades her practicality for bitchiness and insecurity that we’re supposed to view as vulnerability, and Duhamel’s Messer (he goes only by his provocative last name) starts getting long shots of his misty-eyed awakening to his new responsibilities.

There’s no foundation to the changes in their relationship, and especially not to the notion that these two are falling in love with each other. In fact, the things they do eventually to show their feelings feel more like the actions of stalkers. You have to sell yourself way, way down a creepy river to believe this kind of selfishness is romantic.

Maybe we’ve spent too much time celebrating the “bromedies” that lower the bar on what makes for adult behaviour to the point of inanity. Maybe sometime we could try out a story where two people actually figure things out, maybe together, instead of being childish through to the end. Flying off to a fairytale ending is about being immature, not smart.

The only good ending to something like this that actually started off so well has to be one that comes from the characters and the circumstances, not from what we WANT to happen. Two charming, charismatic, and funny people can’t do much with a story that has only a fraction of the sophistication they bring to their performances.

The ending puts Messer and Holly into a kind of weird hell where the only admirable achievement is to have kids and a place in the suburbs – even if you can’t stand your spouse, hate your life, have given up all your dreams, and are obviously doing major psychological damage to your kids. All I could think as the credits rolled was, “Get me out of here!”

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