By Jessica Jones, Contributor
Where to even begin with Life Itself? This movie feels like it’s desperately trying hard to be too many things at once. With lots of unnecessary shock factors and too many Bob Dylan references, it’s still unclear what the creators of this film wanted to say. Made by the same people who brought you This is Us, Life Itself felt like one big miss.
Split up into four different chapters, this movie tells the stories of death, dying and love through different generations. Each chapter is different, but they’re all intertwined to the main storyline – a man and woman (played by Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde) from New York who are expecting their first child. The opening scene is confusing and irrelevant, but it quickly switches to the main story, where our “hero” is a sad drunkard who appears to have daily meetings with his therapist. This part of the film feels like it’s written by an angsty 17-year-old, attempting to mix dark subject matter with ill-placed one-liners. After getting the gist of the main storyline (lots of Bob Dylan, talk of The Unreliable Narrator, more angst – you get the picture) an “unexpected” (it was predictable, people) event occurs and our story takes a turn for the worse.
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The remaining chapters detail what happens to our characters after the events in chapter one. Without giving much away, the rest of the story is relatively gloomy and sad. There was not a single dry eye in the theatre, folks. It starts off as a seemingly lighthearted and comical drama, but the plot gets lost and a majority of the movie is spent focusing on an underwhelming B-story with only a hint of relevance to the main storyline. Cheesy writing doesn’t help this movie’s case, either.
The acting is impressive, but it’s a shame it was paired with such a messy story. The cinematography was also another positive, with some of the scenes, especially in chapter two, being shot beautifully. The scene where Olivia Cooke’s character sings a punk cover of “Make You Feel My Love” was a favorite. The lighting was 10/10.
One of the main things lacking in this film is character development. With too many characters, it’s difficult to achieve and Life Itself proves that to be true. Again, another big miss is the multitude of storylines, each with their own style. It feels disorganized, at times like you’re watching a completely different film. Chapters three and four essentially turn into a telenovela, complete with subtitles and gentle mandolins. The flow of this film isn’t great either. What is trying to be achieved is not, and whatever the director is trying to say feels buried under excessive film devices. If you want to see some of Dan Fogelman’s better work, stick to his television shows, because Life Itself is not it.
Watch the trailer here: