Life or Something Like It benefits from great timing. One of the topics it covers is the professional woman who, after years of carving out a career and being devoted more to her job than her personal life, finds herself without a family and too old to have children. It’s a subject that’s even been on the cover of a recent issue of Time.
With all the potential the film’s premise provides, though, the end result is oh-so-typical Hollywood philosophical hokum.
Fate or Something Like It
PG-13 for sexual content, brief violence, and language
Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie, Tomb Raider) is a big-haired blonde making her way up the ladder of broadcast news. She has the perfect life: the perfect friends, the perfect fiancé, and the perfect job.
While on the city beat, she interviews Jack (Tony Shalhoub, Thirteen Ghosts), a homeless man who makes predictions and has, to the best of his knowledge since he wouldn’t know otherwise, never been wrong. When Lanie questions him about her getting a job as an anchor for a national morning news program, he tells her she won’t get it. Even worse, she’s going to die within days.
That’s a pretty stressful situation for anybody who is willing to put their destiny in the hands of a crackpot, no matter his self-proclaimed track record.
With her end in sight and oh so much living to experience, Lanie starts to question things. And guess what? It turns out her Seattle Mariner baseball-player boyfriend maybe isn’t so great and her career maybe isn’t so fulfilling.
Satisfaction or Something Like It
The newly mortal Lanie sees the importance of liberating her soul and finds satisfaction in sticking it to the boss during a live news update from a picket line. She even trades in her fashion suits for a Social Distortion T-shirt.
Lanie goes on to discover the simple joys of life with her cameraman, former flame, and arrogant-asshole-who’s-really-a-softie-and-has-it-all-together, Pete (Edward Burns, Saving Private Ryan) and his son. Oddly, Pete’s son was up to then an amazingly well kept secret considering Lanie and Pete’s working and sometimes social relationship. For a man who is proud of his son, it doesn’t make too make sense that Pete never spoke about him before… unless, of course, he was playing the asshole card very well.
So. What are Pete’s simple joys of life? Listening to music for free at a record shop, eating ice cream, and, naturally, having a loving sexual relationship.
Hollywood or Something Like It
Jolie is a gifted actress and she is terrific as Lanie. She adds credibility to Lanie as she undergoes a transition from a power player to a playful free spirit to a vulnerable woman. Unfortunately, though, the material lets her down.
The screenplay by John Scott Shepherd (Joe Somebody) and Dana Stevens (City of Angels) is too formulaic and predictable. Herek, director of the cult favorite Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and the soap opera epic Mr. Holland’s Opus, doesn’t help matters with his lack of finesse.
As for Burns, while he is more tolerable than he has been in his recent endeavors (particularly Sidewalks of New York and 15 Minutes) he’s still something like a one-note wonder. His approach constantly suggests that he is merely an actor who is acting; he never seems to bring his characters to life.
In what amounts to a hypocritical exercise, Life urges people to take risks even as the movie itself plays it safe and goes strictly by the book. For a story about savoring every moment life has to offer, it’s a tepid, lifeless affair that lacks imagination.
With a little bit of thought, Life or Something Like It could’ve been so much more. And in this social and political climate, it could’ve been a film that actually inspires people instead of lulls them to sleep.