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A Life Less Ordinary

movie review out of 4 Movie Review: A Life Less Ordinary

Starring: Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz
Director: Danny Boyle
Rated: R
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: October 1997
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Review by MrBrown
½ star out of 4

While the extremely peculiar A Life Less Ordinary does live up to its title, a more appropriate moniker would be A Movie More Misguided, for this confused, confusing attempt at romantic comedy is a most disarming disaster from the talented Trainspotting team of director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, and screenwriter John Hodge. At the core of this strange film is a fairly basic--and, yes, ordinary--premise. After Robert (Boyle regular Ewan McGregor), an aspiring writer of trashy novels, is fired from his janitorial job at the Naville Corporation, he kidnaps Naville's (Ian Holm) spoiled daughter Celine (Cameron Diaz) and holds her for ransom. The joke here is that Celine is a willing victim--her father threatened to cut her off financially, so she wants revenge--and that she soon becomes not only an accomplice but the brains behind the scheme, teaching the inept Robert a thing or two about kidnapping... and, ultimately (didn't we see this one coming?), love. So far, so mediocre. But mediocre is better than dreadful, which this film is, thanks in no small part to the Hodge's contextual frame for the romance. It turns out that God is displeased with the divorce and romantic breakup rate on earth, so the chief of Heaven's police, Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) dispatches two angels, O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo), to earth to hook up Celine and Robert--or lose their angel status. This conceit might have worked if the angel dimension played an integral role in the entire picture. But it could have easily been cut without any clear loss to the film; as it stands, it is simply a waste of time that distracts from the romance at hand. Not that there is much of a romance to begin with. Try as Diaz and McGregor may, Celine and Robert are too one-note to become very endearing characters. Celine is rich bitch; Robert is a dullard. As such, it is quite hard for the audience to really connect with these two--then again, they never seem to really connect with each other. When Celine and Robert start to overtly act on their "feelings," it comes off more like something scripted than anything natural. But I am not exactly sure if Boyle and company's point was romance; honestly, I am not exactly sure what they were trying to accomplish. Boyle juices up the visuals with his characteristic razzmatazz, but it remains just that--energy, not energy in service of a story or even acting. The cast seems lost, especially Hunter, whose performance is so adrift as to be baffling. And then there are the many eccentricities splattered onto the film: some violent confrontations involving the angels, who are not exactly angelic--in fact, they end up staging their own ransom scheme; some mystical hokum in the climax; and a cutesy Claymation epilogue. Watching much of A Life Less Ordinary is like being trapped in indie hipster hell, stockpiling quirks in the name of cool. Instead, the film just gives quirky a bad name. My best guess as to what the filmmakers wanted to accomplish is an atmosphere of warped womantic (yes, misspelling intended) whimsy, which comes through in only one scene: an extended musical number where Celine and Robert sing "Beyond the Sea" at a karaoke bar. After a verse or two, the couple are magically dolled up in snazzy outfits and hairdos, and engage in a spirited dance routine on the counter. The scene works not only because of its relative simplicity but also because it does not try too hard, just relying on the innate charm of the leads, allowing them to build a romantic rapport. Alas, not nearly enough is built, for this moment comes to an abrupt end. I applaud any attempt to bring something fresh and unique to movie houses, but sometimes even cleverness can reach overkill. A Life Less Ordinary certainly delivers something "different," but by the time the film was over, I was clamoring for A Life More Ordinary.

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