Review: LIFE ITSELF

By Mark Saldana 

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

After watching this film, it is so obvious that writer/director Dan Fogelman (This Is Us) absolutely adores the movie Pulp Fiction.  The filmmaker structures his film quite similarly to the way that Quentin Tarantino sets up his movie, with three main intertwined stories with characters connected in different ways. This actually works somewhat, but only for the first two chapters.  When Fogelman connects his third chapter and epilogue, that is when he gets a little testy with his plan of attack.  Though each of his vignettes has its powerful and poignant beats, the fact that they are all connected in some way definitely challenges the audience’s suspension of disbelief and nearly insults their intelligence.  Nevertheless, I still like Fogelman’s foray into cinema and think most audiences will as well.

The movie covers multiple generations of people involved in different types of relationships, all of whom experience the extreme ups and downs of life.  The film first follows a  married couple (Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde) who are expecting their first child. The second vignette involves the tough and tragic life of an aimless and rebellious 21 year-old lady (Olivia Cooke) who lost her parents at a young age and has been raised by her grandparents.  The third chapter follows the family of hard-working Spanish laborer Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) whose wealthy, but lonely boss (Antonio Banderas) covets his wife Isabel (Laia Costa) and their child Rodrigo (Adrian Marrero), To reveal anything beyond this would reveal too much.  Fogelman attempts to tie everthing together with the conclusion of this segment and his epilogue, but that’s where he falters.

Still, I totally understand his positive message despite the emotional rollercoaster of his stories.  Fogelman just gets a little too heavy-handed about it.  This film certainly has the intense lows and wonderful highs of life. However, he could have structured things quite differently and more effectively.  Had he not made such a forceful effort to connect everything  he probably could have had a more cohesive and compelling movie.  Still, I found it difficult to not be somewhat moved by the genuinely realized moments of happiness and sadness that he includes in his stories.

The phenomenal and sincere performances by the amazing cast is what helps drive these moments to heart.  Oscar Isaac is an absolute revelation here as a sensitive and intensely loving husband. He shares a wonderful chemistry with Olivia Wilde whose character’s backstory endows her with a strength and determination to persevere.  I was also impressed with the acting of Sergio Peris-Mencheta who delivers a subdued, but strong turn as the no-nonsense, but loving husbamd and father Javier.  Other tremendous performances come from Antonio Banderas, Laia Costa, Olivia Cooke, Alex Monner, and Mandy Patinkin.

And even though I have my problems with some of this movie, I will still recommend it for my readers, especially those who love relationship dramas.  I think the power of the individual stories hold up mostly well and the tremendous cast helps make them all the more poignant.  As much as I love Pulp Fiction and the way Tarantino structures the film, I think that method of storytelling isn’t suitable for this type of movie.

 

 

 

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