Romantic Comedy or Something Like It
"Life or Something Like It" has been boxed as a romantic comedy yet to be honest it is neither that romantic nor funny. In fact it feels more like a movie which tries to look at what is important in life as we follow TV journalist Lanie Kerrigan who learns from a prophet that she has just a week to live and finds her controlled existence spiralling out of control as she gets a wake up call as to what is really important. It's not the most original of ideas but one which should be interesting as a life is reassessed yet it's all been dumbed down and squeezed into a romantic comedy set up which does it no favours. It makes "Life or Something Like It" a rather strange movie as it doesn't know whether it wants to be funny, romantic or more dramatic and it makes it an uncomfortable watch often leaving you feeling bored as it struggles to find it's way.
TV reporter Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie - The Good Shepherd) is in control of her life and is on the way to making it to the big time when she is put up for a network job. That is until she is sent to do a minor interview with the homeless Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub - A Civil Action) for his sporting predictions but learns from him that she will die in a week. Suddenly her controlled life is thrown into turmoil as she begins to realise that her life has no meaning and with so little time to do anything tries to change things as quickly as possible, which includes making amends with Peter (Edward Burns - Saving Private Ryan) her camera man who she doesn't get on with.
A good way to describe "Life or Something Like It" is a movie with a split personality. Visually it definitely veers towards going for laughs as we have TV journalist Lanie with her big blonde hair and at the same time it has various comedic set pieces, many of which don't provide the laughs which they've obviously been thrown in to achieve. Then there is the romantic side, a stereotypical love hate relationship as Lanie is paired up with laid back camera man Pete who seem to enjoy antagonising each other which obviously hide their true feelings, an element which is as cliche as they come. But then there is another side which sees Lanie's very planned life being thrown into turmoil by discovering that she has a week left and in doing so starts to question what is important.
The thing is that this third side to "Life or Something Like It" is quite interesting and whilst not original in concept is the most thought provoking. On it's own it is in fact quite amusing as Lanie learns from the quirky Prophet Jack that her end is nigh and highlights the elements someone goes through when they realise that death is looming from denial to try and bargain for more time. Except the whole thing ends up being dumbed down by the romantic side of things and the forced comedy. It makes it feel like a very unfocused movie with director Stephen Herek trying to turn a more thought provoking movie into something more mainstream. It just doesn't work and flits between trying to be thought provoking to forced comedy with scenes such as a dishevelled Lanie leading a bunch of strikers in an impromptu rendition of "I can't get no satisfaction". Ironically if it had tried to be either a romantic comedy or a thought provoking drama it would have probably worked better but the mix of them all falls flat.
What also falls flat is surprisingly Angelina Jolie as TV journalist Lanie and it's not just because that big blonde hair is so painfully and intentionally false. The trouble is that we are meant to warm to Lanie as she goes from shallow and career focused to someone who realises that there is more to life but between being too 2 dimensional and shallow it's hard, almost impossible to warm to her even as she does start to learn these tough lessons. Edward Burns does a little better as Pete as his natural laid back charm is appealing despite having another 2 dimensional character.
But the real star of "Life or Something Like It" is Tony Shaloub who in reality does not get much screen time but as Prophet Jack makes a lasting impression as being both eccentric and conflicted by this gift he has inherited. You end up feeling more for Jack than anyone else because he sees these visions whether he wants them or not and in part longs for a more normal existence.
What this all boils down to is that "Life or Something Like It" is very much an opportunity missed. Whilst the idea of someone suddenly discovering what is truly important to them is not that original it has plenty of potential except that potential is lost by dumbing it down and turning "Life or Something Like It" into a romantic comedy. It makes it a very unfocussed movie which struggles to keep your attention by not knowing what it wants to be.