Rob Reviews "Life Itself"
Ever since I wore a younger man’s clothes, I have always enjoyed watching any form of entertainment that has layers to a story that lie below what is currently being watched. There is a certain challenge to trying to figure out where a story is going that is fun and one of the few things that are cool by men when I get them incorrect. From what I have been told, Dan Fogelman is a writer that has made a living from it by creating the NBC hit show “This is Us,” and now there are many that are comparing his formula of that show with “Life Itself”.
The synopsis here is going to be kept fairly short due to the fact that the possibility of spoilers is really likely if I go too deep into it. Just know that there is an all-star cast here including Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Olivia Cooke, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Mandy Patinkin, and Jean Smart in a tale that at its core is simply about the way people’s lives intersect and affect one another, both locally and globally, against the backdrop of Bob Dylan’s music, specifically his “Time out of Mind” album.
I am not sure what the critics that are panning this film (and those numbers appear to be climbing) were expecting. In the interest in full transparency, I have never seen Fogelman’s show not because I am not a fan but more because A: I have too many shows now, and B: I can only handle so much emotional stuff at one time in a week. Perhaps those dogpiling “Life Itself” are fans of “This is Us” and feel like this is more of the same, but why does that always have to be a bad thing? This film is full of amazing performances (Isaac absolutely SLAYS this), a strong story that takes all of the necessary turns to get its message across and kept me engaged the entire time. Sure, this is one of those films that requires its audience to stay with it for the almost two hour runtime, but again: why is that bad? Some films are designed to be background noise, but this one never claims to be.
There is not a moment in this film where I was not completely enthralled by what was going on, with a couple of sequences in particular. When Patinkin is having the life lesson conversations with his granddaughter (at one point played by Cooke) as well as the first time we are introduced to Javier (brilliantly brought to life by Sergio-Peris Mencheta) as he has a face-to-face with his boss in Mr. Saccione (Banderas in some of the best work I have seen him do in a while) are simply two small parts of a larger picture. “Life Itself” does its best to pull at the heartstrings in more than one point, and I cannot say I did not pull a “I’m not crying… you’re crying” at least one time.
I may have referenced this story before, but for those that are expecting more from “Life Itself” (both literally and figuratively) than the wonderfulness that it provides, I quote HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant who once said, “Sometimes a fight is just a fight to a fighter”. Sure, he may not have known where he was going when he said it (if you don’t know, Google it… trust me), but those words carry weight. In this case, sometimes a movie just needs to be a movie to a moviegoer, so enjoy this for what it is for date night.