Sunday, September 26, 2010

“Life As We Know It” (Movie Review)

The Fall Semester of my movie class has begun with this morning’s bonus screening of the romantic comedy “Life As We Know It”, starring Katherine Heigl (whoalso took an Executive Producer credit) and Josh Duhamel.


When a womanizer and lonely single woman are paired to be foster parents for their mutual friends’ recently orphaned infant, they are forced to change their lifestyles for the best interests of the baby – but after they find that their personalities are incompatible with each other, can they somehow find a way to put their differences aside in order to be responsible caretakers of the child?


Holly (Heigl) and Messer (Duhamel) are set up via a blind date arranged by a husband and wife who are their mutual friends – the couple’s belief being that these two are perfect for each other.  Unfortunately, when Messer shows up an hour late and Holly’s inflexibly stiff personality prevents her from going with the flow, the date doesn’t get off to a very good start – in fact, the date doesn’t come off at all when she refuses to ride his motorcycle and he makes a booty call on his cell phone during the date.  While they are determined to never see each other again after this disaster, this becomes impossible due to the fact that they share friends. 

Things take a turn for the worse for all involved when the couple who pair them up in the first place die in an automobile accident, leaving their only child, an infant named Sophie, an orphan.  Much to everyone’s surprise, their good friends Holly and Messer are named in the couple’s will to be the ones to take care of their baby in the event of their untimely death.  With neither one of them particularly well - equipped to be part of a couple – much less a parent – they attempt to attain an uneasy truce for the sake of the child.  Since each of them intensely dislike the other and are both very career – driven – he as the Technical Director for the Atlanta Hawks televised basketball games and she as a baker with her own store in the city – neither seem especially prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in order to do what is the best for this little girl. 

With Holly having a crush on Sam, an obstetrician who happens to be a regular customer in her bakery, and Messer continually adding another notch in his bed post with one one-night-stand after another, neither seem to be mature enough to be able to settle down and provide the type of stable environment in which Sophie must be raised.  This becomes an area of great consternation for the Social Worker assigned to their case by the state’s Child Protection Services.  But by the time the Social Worker has to provide the state with her final report on these two, will Holly & Messer be able to convince her – and each other – that they are the best choice possible to raise Sophie?


In setting us up for this movie, our instructor characterized it as “a confection”.  I suppose that would be a polite way of describing “Life As We Know It”; my characterization of it, however, would be more like “a contrivance”.  While I don’t want to take the easy way out and summarily dismiss this movie for the formulaic Hollywood fluff it clearly aspires to be (and largely succeeds, I must say), I do have to admit that it would be an easy target upon which to unload for its unsophisticated approach and cloying sentimentality.  For better or worse, however, the fact of the matter is that major Hollywood hits often succeed precisely because they have found a way to conform to a particular formula that is known to work; it then becomes a business matter of determining who is the demographic to which such a movie is targeted and how best to appeal to its members.  One issue of a technical nature that was interesting from a filmmaking standpoint was the fact that if you check the credits, you will notice that there were actually three babies used in shooting this movie; our instructor made a point of mentioning that the filmmakers used triplets instead of twins when casting the role of Sophie.  Normally, movies that feature a baby cast twins because children are limited to the amount of hours they can work on a film; in this case, the filmmakers cast triplets, allowing them even lengthier shooting days with the adult stars of the film. 

As with many formulaic movies of this type, if you buy into the premise, then you buy into the film as a whole.  So, the central question then becomes whether or not you buy into the premise.  If you don’t buy into a movie’s premise, then you tend to fall out of the story rather early and start noticing certain details that you might not have picked up had you bought into it from the start.  I was unable to buy into this movie’s premise and as a result, started noticing things that many people who enjoyed the movie either didn’t notice, or subconsciously noticed but chose to ignore simply because they appreciated the movie more than I.  Examples would include such items as my inability to suspend my disbelief in the idea that the couple who named Holly & Messer as their child’s caretakers chose not to discuss this rather crucial matter of their baby’s upbringing with either person; both of them were taken aback when they learned of this.  Another thing I found hard to believe was the fact that many of Holly’s telephone conversations took place on a land line when most of today’s late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings have done away with land lines in favor of strictly using cell phones.

In my class’s post – screening discussion, the overwhelming majority seemed to really enjoy the movie quite a good deal.  Then again, I suppose that you have to keep in mind that most of the students in this class are women (and older women, at that).  So, if that’s the demographic into which you fall – female, and especially, those over 40 – then this might just be the kind of film you’d appreciate.  To me, it really does seem like the type of thing that is best suited for a “Girls’ Day Out” – perfect post – brunch viewing for women on a weekend afternoon.  But as a date flick?  I don’t know about that one – the men in this particular audience (including myself) seemed considerably less than enthusiastic about “Life As We Know It”.