If you’re a survivor or currently surviving through the crazy rollercoaster of emotions from the well-known, heart-tugging NBC show, “This is Us,” you might just be able to go through “Life Itself.”
Dan Fogelman, the writer and director of pieces such as “This is Us” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” is the mind behind this multigenerational melodrama. He has been known as a mind that seeks to vividly explore and celebrate the unpredictability of concepts such as tragedy and joy in our lives. With a stellar cast featuring Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Laia Costa, Antonio Banderas and multiple talented others, the interlocking storylines built into the movie take flight.
The movie explores the life of a couple in New York, played by Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde whose relationship acts as a foundation in which the plot develops and the events ripple through generations and continents.
Being a person who is intrigued with anything dealing with emotions, I happened to be content with the way the movie played out contrary to popular critiques and reviews of the movie. But my contentment does not go without recognizing the missed potential of the script and plot.
The movie’s script, landing on the 2016 “Blacklist” of the best unproduced scripts that year, was filled with creatively crafted sentiments and interesting concepts, such as that of the unreliable narrator, a concept which is brought into the movie based on the thesis of Olivia Wilde’s character, Abby. She proposes that every narrator is unreliable in some sort of way and that the only reliable narrator is life, although life itself is also an unreliable narrator because it is constantly changing and redirecting. The utilization of this concept fuels one of the main critiques of the movie which is the irony of predictability.
With the movie’s main premise being the unpredictability of life, the movies emotional junctions seem more predictable through the movie. After one of the major reveals towards the beginning of the movie, the viewer is already slightly aware of the likely outcome of scenes to follow, leaving it a matter of being proven wrong or right.
Another critque, is the cramming in of tragedies. A descriptor for “Life Itself” can be a season of “This Is Us” with its emotions and character developments molded into a 118-minute movie. The layering tragedies that occur do not fully achieve the emotional responses they aim at because of the little time the viewer gets to interact with the characters and events that would enable them to sufficiently connect with the tragedy.
There were heavy emotions, relatively complex characters, relationships and the overarching concept of the unreliable narrator that could not be sufficiently and thoroughly developed and unpacked within the movie’s timespan.
With its good script, talented cast, but stunted 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 5.5/10 on IMDb, one wonders how the reception of Fogelman’s creation might have taken a different form if it had been birthed in television. this would have allowed the characters and the emotional, psychological and slightly philosophical undertones and messages relayed in the movie’s script to be developed in the viewers mind and heart episode by episode.