Written and directed by Dan Fogelman (creator/producer of This Is Us. Screenplay writer of Tangled!) and starring Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde, Life Itself tells a lovely story about life, itself, that comes together so beautifully it will make you at least smile if not tear up and/or cry. This is going to be one of those reviews where I will give nothing away about this film, so buckle up buttercups as I meander through this non-review. One thing I will tell you now is go see Life Itself now in theaters or see it when it streams, but make sure you see it. In the meantime, discuss it with no one because there are those amongst us who derive joy from ruing a movie for others, but not I.
When This is Us first aired I didn’t watch the first season until it was well underway On Demand. A woman I worked with implored me to watch every week. She would recount how she cried during every episode and I asked her in all seriousness, “Why would I want to schedule myself to cry every week?” She finally beat me into submission and I watched the stupid show. Like my co-worker, I loved it, but unlike my coworker, This is Us didn’t make me cry until the 4th episode or so and when it got me, it got me good – like right in the heart.
This is Us is a feel-good, feel-bad, feel-good-type of show. It is sweet and sappy in all the best ways ever. In many ways it reminds me of the much more culturally diverse version of Family (1976). Just good, imperfect people coming together working on remaining a family through the ups and downs of life.
This is how Life Itself is. With the world we live in today, it feels good to have something so wholesome, simple (yet complicated), endearing and emotional; where adults use their words (even the children use their words on This is Us. Did you hear Dejà speak last week! Sorry. We are not discussing This is Us right now! Back to Life Itself…) It’s just so meaningfully expressive, and that’s why I enjoy Fogelman’s writing so much.
This Fogelman dude is a master manipulator of human emotion. While I watched Life Itself, along with many women, were several grown men holding back tears at the theater. They were sniffling frequently and forcefully, trying not to go into full Viola Davis “snotty-cry,” hanging on by a thread, the poor pumpkins; and it was lovely. It reminded me of that saying, “You never know what the next person is going through, so always be kind” (or however it goes) because things in this movie were striking chords with people all around me.
The way Life Itself is woven together is in the 10 bloop territory of mastery. The characters are tightly fleshed out to serve their purpose. The only things you learn about them are things that matter and move the story along. Nothing more.
Most importantly, what Fogelman does best is bring an audience together by focusing on the things that connect us all as human beings. He also has a way of making those things that divide us disappear. They do not matter. There was a diverse range of people sniffling in that audience and they were sniffling because this stuff is universal. We all want love, human connection, understanding, family is important to us, we want to belong, to have a decent life (whatever that means to you), we want to enjoy our children and grandchildren and we want them to be safe and happy. Those common, basic, human emotional needs/wants are what makes us a brotherhood.
These basic needs and common threads of life are Life Itself and what life is all about.
The ability to cause all types of people to connect, feel, tear up over and even perhaps cry en masse over your art is a gift. Thank you for sharing Mr. Fogelman.
Life Itself isn’t without problems. It goes slowly; sometimes way too slowly. Honestly, I very nearly fell asleep at least once. It was a 10 a.m. movie, so that had something to do with it as well, but there is no denying the slowness exists and at times it is unpleasant, dare I say a/k/a boring. Also, Life, Itself featured some smatterings of cliché plot and dialogue and some repetitiveness from the This is Us writing. It is the intricate weave of this story that helps make all of this forgivable.
Life Itself earned 8 out of 10 bloops. If you like a slow moving movie, such as Phantom Thread you should like this one (and Lord knows there is no movie I can think of that is slower than Phantom Thread (my review in the link). If you like the structure and feeling of This is Us, you should enjoy Life Itself.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
What I’m seeing/reviewing next…
So much to see I don’t know where to being…
A Star is Born
A Simple Favor
Support the Girls
Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
Sorry to Bother You
Avengers: Infinity War
You Were Never Really Here
A Quiet Place
Ready Player One
A Wrinkle in Time
The Florida Project
Den of Thieves
All the Money in the World
The Greatest Showman
The Disaster Artist
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
The Shape of Water
The Man Who Invented Christmas
Victoria and Abdul
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
The Big Sick
All Eyez on Me
It Comes at Night
The Wedding Plan
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Kong: Skull Island
The Girl with All the Gifts
A Cure for Wellness
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Manchester by the Sea
I Am Not Your Negro