Movie Review: ‘Life Itself” is the most insulting, manipulating film of the year
Director: Dan Fogelman
Writers: Dan Fogelman
Stars: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening
Synopsis: As a young New York couple goes from college romance to marriage and the birth of their first child, the unexpected twists of their journey create reverberations that echo over continents and through lifetimes.
Let me start by saying, before I get into reasons why I didn’t like this movie, know that I had hopes a couple of months ago about this film. When I saw the trailer, I thought it looked good and was interested in giving this movie a shot, even though the idea of taking a giant cast of characters and have them all connected by circumstances so dumb that you have to shut your brain off to even imagine it working. Then the reviews started to come out of Toronto and various critics I admire, thus leading me to worry that this film will not be good. Those reviews amounted to it being ranked as one of the worst films of the year. And after seeing Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself, and some days to think on it, I must agree with my peers and say that not only is Life Itself the worst movie of the year so far, but dare I say the most offensive film put to screen in recent memory.
Life Itself mostly follows two shallow, meaningless stories about two families, one in New York City and the other in Spain. The Dempsey family composed of Oscar Isaac, Oliva Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Jean Smart, and later in the film, Olivia Cooke, are the unluckiest people on the planet and yet there is nothing that is really compelling about them. Isaac and Wilde meet in college and most of their story follows their dating life, their marriage, an event that changes everyone’s life, and then towards the tail end of their story, follows Cooke’s story, who plays their daughter. Everything in this section is an eye rolling, boring exercise in what to do when writing a screenplay. From Isaac’s depressing, creepy performance as Will, to Olivia Wilde’s character being nothing but a tool for Isaac’s character to exist, to the awful stuff about Wilde’s college thesis paper, which is a think piece for another day that I will not write make you read, to finally Cooke’s sluggish performance as the daughter that lost everything that no one feels sorry for. The only saving grace in this section is Patinkin and Annette Bening as Will’s psychiatrist but that’s not saying much because he is barely in this film, kind of like my interest in this film at this point of the movie.
The second part of this film follows family and their boss in Spain, played by Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Laia Costa, Alex Monner and Antonio Banderas. This section feels like a totally different movie, with some actual interest but confusion as to why it was in the film at all. It’s a basic story of Mencheta working for Banderas, moving his family in but not wanting to do anything but do his work for Banderas due to the nature of how Banderas got his money or something like that. But when a tragic event happens to Mencheta and his family, and Banderas comes to help, the film gives off so many weird tones that you don’t know what the hell it is trying to say about this situation. Costa’s performance is mostly good, but she is given the same treatment as Wilde’s character, in that their performances are only there to serve the men they are acting opposite in the scenes with. Banderas is really good here but it’s mostly Banderas being himself, so it’s not a far stretch of a performance. The other child performance from Alex Monner is okay, but he is not given much to do, again folks, this script sucks.
But even though the second part is better than the first, the thing that makes it terrible to is that all the big twists and turns in this story are reliant upon the abysmal first act, that you wonder what the point of the film is. By the end of the second section, you feel so cheap and dirty because you have been manipulated into this other story but can’t forget that this film is one of those movies that has to connect everything, so it ruins the best parts of it. Look I’m sure Dan Fogelman really poured his heart in soul into this project, and tried to turn lemon into whatever the hell this movie was supposed to be, but all that I felt by the end of this was that feeling of never wanting to see another thing written by him. Someone who can write terrible dialogue for Samuel L. Jackson (who is in one of the most baffling, offensive openings I’ve ever seen to a movie), make me feel like Pulp Fiction might be over rated, call a dog the worst name in cinema history, and ruin Bob Dylan, makes me question why NBC is giving him a job, and why he was ever given a shot to make this massive eye roll of a movie.