"Have you ever felt like you're not in control of your life?" the
angel Jackson asks poor Robert in A LIFE LESS ORDINARY. Robert, you
see, has been having a hard time coping lately.
It all started when Robert was fired from his janitorial position.
It seems a robot could do his work cheaper and faster. When he told
his girl about it, she casually mentioned that she was leaving him for
her aerobics instructor. And to add insult to injury, the finance
company repossessed his furniture and car.
Played beautifully as an everyman by Ewan McGregor, Robert strikes
back by trying to throw the pesky little robot who replaced him out the
office window of the company's billionaire owner, but the unflappable
robot just bounces off the glass and keeps on working. Robert ends up
kidnapping Celine, the boss's daughter, as a way to extract revenge.
Celine, a more than slightly deranged rich kid, favors such
pastimes as using big guns to shoot apples off her butler's head.
Cameron Diaz gives a strikingly alluring portrait of Celine, a
confident and resourceful young woman. Oozing charisma out of her big,
blue eyes, Diaz owns her scenes.
When Robert proves an inept criminal, Celine scolds him.
Afterall, having been kidnapped before at age 12, she is an expert on
precisely how these things are supposed to be done. "'Kidnap for
beginners,' Chapter One," she chides him. "Have you even asked for a
ransom yet?" And when he insults her by suggesting what she considers
a petty amount, she tells him she could never hold her head up again in
society if he didn't demand more.
Diaz has delighted audiences in little films like THE LAST SUPPER
as well as in glitzy productions such as MY BEST FRIENDS WEDDING with a
wide acting range from bitingly bitchy to cloyingly sweet. In all of
them her charm never fades. In a nice bit of complementary casting,
McGregor plays opposite Diaz. McGregor, who will soon be famous as the
young Obi-Wan in the new STAR WARS, got his initial accolades from his
role as Mark Renton in TRAINSPOTTING. McGregor's Robert is as lost and
out of his league as Celine is in total control of the situation. Diaz
even manages to keep a straight face when Celine gets lines like, "Love
is merely a physical adaptation to an emotional necessity."
As interesting as the plot setup is and as fine as the
performances are by the leads, the film limps along at best. Director
Danny Boyle, in his first movie since his hit comedy about heroin
addicts, TRAINSPOTTING, has trouble staging compelling scenes. With
the remarkably unfunny script by John Hodge, who also worked on
TRAINSPOTTING, the storyline becomes little more than bizarre.
Delroy Lindo plays the morally ambiguous angel Jackson and Holly
Hunter is his pistol-toting angel sidekick O'Reilly. The subplot of
their using dastardly means to force the two leads into true love
probably sounded promising on paper, but as delivered, it is as flat
and uninviting as the rest of the film.
With such a hopelessly underdeveloped and muddled plot, the most
surprising aspect of the picture is that Diaz and McGregor remain
unscathed. Even if you hate the film, which is quite likely, you leave
admiring two troopers who poured their hearts and souls into a hopeless
project. In the film's single totally captivating moment, a delightful
musical number with the two of them singing and dancing to a karaoke
playing "Beyond the Sea," Diaz and McGregor are able to show what the
chemistry between them could have produced. But the film, A LIFE LESS
ORDINARY, is exactly that. Ordinary would have been an improvement.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes