Film of the Week: 'Life or Something'

By STEVE SAILER, UPI National Correspondent  |  April 25, 2002 at 1:43 PM
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LOS ANGELES, April 25 (UPI) -- Angelina Jolie, improbably sporting platinum blonde hair and no tattoos, stars in the new chick flick "Life or Something Like It." It's a comedy-drama. Hey, what's the one-word term for "comedy-drama?" Dramedy? Coma?

A coma is pretty much what "Life or Something" reduced me to. It's one of those movies where you know that no matter how dire things may look for the heroine, in the last scene there's going to be a huge standing ovation. Why do so many movies these days end with hundreds of extras cheering madly for the stars? Is that the ultimate American fantasy? To receive a standing ovation?

Still, I'm a guy, so my apathy doesn't much matter. The women in the preview audience seemed to identify with Jolie, and that's what counts.

And, for the long-term success of Jolie's career, that's the only market segment that matters. While playing the sexy freakoid on and off the screen jumpstarted her career by exciting males fans, they'll move on to the next girl of the moment. To enjoy a long career, a star must ultimately appeal primarily to her own gender.

Here Jolie is a perky Katie Couric wanna-be on a Seattle TV new broadcast. She has a big salary, about six dozen curve-fitting designer suits, a high-rise apartment that makes Frasier's look like a refrigerator carton, and the star slugger of the Mariners baseball team as her live-in fiancé.

The only thing wrong with her existence, she feels, is that her cameraman is the morose but manly Edward Burns ("The Brothers McMullen"), who despises her for her shallowness. (Yet, he is always available for the kind of interminable discussions of feelings that modern women tell each other is the ultimate virtue in a man).

The olive-skinned Jolie, who inherited her French Canadian model mother's dark beauty and her father Jon Voight's notoriously massive lips, looks awfully strange with a Marilyn Monroe hairdo. It's not what you'd call a natural look. While she's certainly eye-catching, watching her wore me out. Jolie's look just isn't as easy on the eyes as Marilyn's was.

So, you'd think the movie would treat her platinum-dyed hair as an epitome of her phoniness, especially because Jolie's dark roots are recognizable. Instead, "Life or Something" features repeated flashbacks to Jolie as a gawky little girl ... with platinum hair. I just don't get it.

"My life is perfect," Jolie announces to her best friend, so you can be sure that instant karma's gonna get her.

"Life or Something" must be the 807th movie with a supernatural premise I've seen since 1990's "Ghost." A bum who prophesies on street corners tells Jolie she'll die in a week. His other predictions keep coming true, so she decides to reassess her rapidly ending life. Does it have meaning? She quickly narrows her query down to deciding whether her taciturn ballplayer boyfriend will prove a fascinating enough conversationalist over the next 30 years.

To test Sluggo, she starts the dreaded "Relationship" discussion: Why do you like me?

Her outfielder replies, "The thing I love about us is that we don't have to talk like this." (I should get that tattooed on my forehead so my wife can't forget those words of wisdom.)

Then, in a sweet gesture, he takes Jolie to SAFECO Field for some midnight batting practice. There's nothing, he explains, that helps you forget your troubles like pounding the old horsehide.

For this, Jolie immediately dumps him and takes up with Burns. Despite his Irish glumness, he can rattle on about feelings for as long as she can.

I guess I'm just not as philosophical as Jolie's character because five years ago, when my doctor told me I had a 70 percent chance of dying shortly of non-Hodgkin's lymphatic cancer, it never occurred to me to break up with my wife. (I'm fine now, thanks, knock on wood.) Instead, I spent most of my time, between panic attacks, trying (A) to figure out how not to die; and (B) to weasel my way into some more life insurance in case Plan A didn't work out.

Burns does better than you'd think in his thankless role as a female fantasy object. His congenital lack of animation contrasts nicely with Jolie's vivacity. And his apparent disdain for "Life or Something" will keep male moviegoers from hating him.

There are a few nice surprises in the movie for guys. Christian Kane excels in what starts out as a stereotypical dumb jock role, but keeps turning into a more substantial characterization.

And, while the light-orchestral score of the first hour is among the most vapid I've ever heard, suddenly, half-way through, Social Distortion's 1990 roots-punk classic "Story of My Life" rips a much needed hole in the screen.

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