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Life or Something Like It

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Life or Something Like It

from Film Forum, 05/02/02

In director Steven Herek's Life or Something Like It, Angelina Jolie plays a television reporter named Lanie, whose increasing popularity is bringing with it all of the maddening busy-ness of celebrity. Will she have time to build a healthy relationship with her fiancé, who is a superstar in his own right? (He's a Seattle Mariner.) Or should she listen to the criticisms of Pete (Ed Burns), the sexy cameraman whose interest in her goes beyond his responsibility with the camera?

Online critic Phil Boatwright is ecstatic, calling the film "delightful and totally engaging. [It] reminds us to live every day as if it's the last (which in itself is a marvelous instruction). It also suggests that it is a mistake to let our career alone define who we are. The script is smart, the direction focused and the fable-like premise thought provoking. This is a good movie."

Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family), Tom Snyder (Movieguide), and John Adair (Preview) agree that premarital sex and several obscenities are problems. But they also agree with the film's message that "family and personal relationships are more important than having a high-powered career." Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) writes, "In the midst of building our careers and looking to succeed in our chosen professions, we can easily have a tendency to gauge our success by using the wrong measuring stick. God would have us remember what is truly important."

But according to Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films), Lanie may not really be learning anything: "Once her eyes have been opened … she begins asking questions about [her relationship with her fiancé] that apparently never occurred to her before, such as: 'What binds us together? What are our shared beliefs, our values? What's going to keep us together ten, twenty, thirty years from now?' Fine questions … but they never get asked about her new relationship with Pete."

Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight) writes, "I was amazed at how many pre-teen and teenage girls were in the audience swallowing these phony messages about life."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' review has nothing good to say about its craftsmanship. "In Herek's hands, it all boils down to romantic fluff. The contrived situations that drive this film make the positive direction the plot takes seem banal and unavoidable." The reviewer argues that Lanie's promotion is implausible, because she "loses all objectivity as a reporter." He also points to alarmingly obvious product placements, which "amount to blatant commercials."

One character sums up the film's message by referring to an old proverb: "Someone once said, live every day as if it will be your last." Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) retorts, "Not just someone once said that. Everyone once said it, over and over again, although Life or Something Like It thinks it's a fresh insight. This is an ungainly movie, ill-fitting, with its elbows sticking out where the knees should be. To quote another ancient proverb, 'A camel is a horse designed by a committee.' Life or Something Like It is the movie designed by the camel."

Lisa Schwarzbaum (Entertainment Weekly) says the movie's title is meaningless. "Life or Something Like It is neither about life nor about anything like life. As far as I can tell, this bubbleheaded drama, which purports to dramatize the importance of getting one's priorities straight … is mostly about slapping together a bunch of clichés—outdated clichés at that—regarding the loneliness of ambitious women. And it's about hoping that audiences will be so fascinated by the extraordinary terrain of … Jolie's lips that they won't care how synthetic the whole enterprise really is."