An Acting Career or Something Like It
It's an unfortunate fact that, the romantic comedy, as a film genre, is so often diluted to inventing idiotic reasons two people can't couple. Be it geography (a la Sleepless in Seattle), silly beliefs in fate (a la Serendipity) or even the weather (as any other poor soul who saw Forces of Nature might recall)-there can always be something in the way. In the latest incarnation of this trend, Life Or Something Like It adds death, or rather, the threat of death, to this ever-growing list.
Donning peroxide blond hair and a succession of bad knit suits, Angelina Jolie takes a stab at comedy as Lanie Kerrigan, a Seattle newscaster and television personality. With the perfect job, the perfect fiancé (an airhead jock who plays for the Mariners) and a damn nice apartment to boot, life seems to be, well, perfect for Lanie. But when she goes out in the field to do a story on a local homeless man named Prophet Jack, (Tony Shalhoub), this neat little package begins to unravel as everything she trusts and believes is suddenly brought into question.
Purporting to speak the future, Prophet Jack tells Lanie that the Seahawks will lose their latest game to the Broncos, it will hail the following morning, and that she will die in a week. Trying not to take the spooky prediction to heart, Lanie becomes unnerved after the first two of Prophet Jack's predictions come to pass.
Gunning for a big promotion that will allow her to work at a national morning show in New York, Prophet Jack's prediction makes Lanie lose focus on her job and forces her to ask if her existence has meaning. As she begins to scratch away at the neatly constructed architecture of her life, she begins to see the person she's become and the one she left behind (namely a chubby youngster with glasses who had the nickname, Pudge). Turning to the grungy (but, of course, effortlessly handsome Edward Burns) cameraman that she heretofore despised, Lanie finds comfort in the last place she thought to look as an unexpected romance blossoms. And, if there's anything that can stave off death, wouldn't you know it's the love of a good man.
Putting aside the fact that Life Or Something Like It poses mind-numbingly infantile questions (What would you do if you had one week to live? If you could live your life over, would you do it differently?), it inadvertently passes along the notion that a woman with ambition is a woman who is lost. Incidental as it is, one of the funniest moments in the film comes when Lanie gets the chance to interview her idol, Deborah Connors (played wonderfully by Stockard Channing), a Barbara Walters-like personality notorious for bringing her subjects to tears. As Lanie questions Deborah, she veers from the script and asks the woman about her long lost love, the one she gave up for her career; the question brings on a flood of tears and a humorously ironic twist. The scene also points to the subtle way Life Or Something Like It insinuates that ambition, particularly in women, often comes at the cost of happiness, i.e. a man.
Of course all this isn't to say that there aren't some surprisingly amusing and funny moments sprinkled throughout this otherwise forgettable film. Jolie does a standout job in the lead, evolving from a prickly debutant into a lovable rebel. While Burns is adequate as her sidekick, Jolie holds the spotlight throughout. The other notable moments in the film come during the shots on the news set or in the field. Surprisingly, the best and most subtly amusing material in Life Or Something Like It is provided by the film's treatment of the TV news. From the small local station in Seattle to the Good Morning America-like set in New York, the idiocy and small-time Hollywood aspect of the local news and national morning shows comes vibrantly to life here.
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