Cast: Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke
Director: Dan Fogelman
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: 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 in Life Itself. Director and writer Dan Fogelman (“This Is Us”) examines the perils and rewards of everyday life in a multigenerational saga featuring an international ensemble including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Olivia Cooke, Sergio Peris- Mencheta, Laia Costa, Alex Monner and Mandy Patinkin. Set in New York City and Carmona, Spain, Life Itself celebrates the human condition and all of its complications with humor, poignancy and love.
Life Itself is easily the frontrunner for most self-important film of 2018. This is the type of movie that thinks it has all the answers to the issues we face in life, but ultimately it just speaks in circles and never creates a central thesis to connect the stories together. This preachy, embarrassing attempt to harness the human spirit is fueled by characters that are impossible to care about, dialogue that is either mean-spirited or moronic, and a story that tries to be something way bigger than it actually is.
The film follows Will (Isaac) and Abby (Wilde) Dempsey, as they navigate life together and the impact that single moments can have on them and the people who matter in their lives. While this is the main storyline, it one of five (yes, you read that right) storylines in the film. This brings me to my first point. With five storylines going on and each storyline influencing how the other ones play out makes it impossible to care about any of these characters. At one point, the film tries to connect events from 100 years ago to the life we have today, and while theoretically that makes sense, we never see enough of any of the characters to form a bond and see the emotional weight that came with the consequences of these actions. I have said in the past that even three storylines is a lot for the viewers to handle, but by the end of the fourth storyline I had no idea how we got here from the start of the film. The storyline of Will and Abby is something that is potentially interesting at the start, but right as you start to feel an emotional investment towards the two of them, the film shifts away from them for the rest of the film. I also find the lack of consistency disturbing, as there are multiple scenes where I have absolutely no clue what the rules of these scenes are. When Will is in therapy, he and his therapist (Annette Bening) go over the events in Will’s past through a series of flashbacks. While Will can actively interact with these memories in a common movie tactic, somehow the therapist can do the same thing. Eventually, we find out that Will’s daughter Dylan (Cooke) can do the same thing with Will’s memories. Did I miss the announcement for Marvel’s new movie? Do these people have superpowers? I understand Will being able to interact with his memories since he was there when they happened, but how would his therapist or daughter know what happened when they were not there? This went from a cheesy rom-com tactic to one that completely breaks the world they live in faster than any tactic I have ever seen. My final and biggest issue with this film is the implementation of Abby’s thesis into the plot. Abby’s thesis is that life is the ultimate unreliable narrator due to it knowing everything that is going to happen but only giving pieces out to certain individuals over time. How this thesis is used throughout the movie is basically just an excuse for the writers to make up details as they go along and have their story make absolutely no sense. There are multiple scenes where we see what the character was thinking, what the character thinks they did, and what the character actually did, but it always comes off as trying to seem way deeper than the movie is. That really summarizes what this movie truly represents. This is a movie that desperately tries to solve life’s problems, but ends up as just a mean-spirited and unorganized mess.
Overall, this truly is one of the most self-righteous and narcissistic films I have seen in recent years. If this movie was a person, it would shop at Whole Foods and bathe in that sense of elitism and entitlement. It makes me sad that such talented people like Isaac and Cooke were involved in this project, and if I had to guess, they thought the final product would have ended up being much better. I believe the final message the film tries to deliver is that bad things happen in life and that love is the only thing that matters, and after watching it, I can say that Life Itself is one of the bad things that happened in my life.
Overall Score: 1/10