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Life or Something Like It
Reviewed by Carla Freccero

Now playing at Aptos Cinemas, Santa Cruz Cinema 9, Green Valley Cinema 6, Life or Something Like It is directed by Stephen Herek, who did Rock Star and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Angelina Jolie, dyed blonde and made-over to look like an unwholesome Marilyn (or maybe like Madonna on coke), is the star of this story about Lanie—a successful aspiring newswoman working her way to the top in Seattle.  She’s well-off; fit (many scenes are at the gym); she’s engaged to a Seattle Mariner; and she’s going to have a shot at a national network where her idol and role model, Deborah Connors (played by Stockard Channing—think Barbara Walters maybe?) works. 

To test her mettle, Lanie’s boss teams her up with cameraman Pete (Edward Burns), a former boyfriend whom she dumped and who is always making uncharitable remarks about her superficial lifestyle and excessive ambition.  You know, one of these days they should make a movie where a woman rightly humiliates a man for having career ambitions and caring about his looks. Sigh.

Anyway, one day on the streets of Seattle, a homeless man—Prophet Jack—who is a friend of Pete’s and who’s played beautifully by Tony Shalhoub, tells Lanie she will die in a week.  He makes a bunch of other predictions as well, all of which come true. So Lanie, convinced eventually that the prophet speaks true, goes in search of her life’s meaning.  She turns to her family, each member of which is a wreck; she tries to talk to her fiancé, who applies his batting-practice therapy to her malaise; and finally she turns to Pete, where you knew she was headed all along.

They share a meaningful few days, she meets his kid, and then one of the prophet’s predictions—that she would not get the national network job—turns out to be false.  Elated, Lanie reverts to type and is flown to New York City to do a television interview with Stockard Channing.  Pete, who won’t leave Seattle, finds himself dumped once again.  Or does he?  The movie has a few more twists and turns, but suffice it to say that we know the moral all too well—it’s a cautionary tale for the feminist generation.

In spite of that, I was moved and I enjoyed this movie. After all, it poses a pretty important question:  if you knew you had a week left, what would you do? The story’s well-crafted.  It’s very nicely paced, with just the right amount of humor, and I was never bored. The actors do well too, although, as always, Jolie’s style is jarring and awkward at first.  And, finally, the movie’s moral fable makes an important concession to feminism:  the girl’s allowed to have her successful career and leave it too, while the guy thinks twice about his decision not to budge when his true love wants to move.  Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.

Copyright Carla Freccero 2002