Landon Roberts, Contributing Writer
Dan Fogelman’s “This is Us” took television by storm with its character-driven stories and accurate portrayals of mental illness — fantastic writing and personal connection to the stories being told made for phenomenal production. The same can’t be said for Fogelman’s “Life Itself,” which seems like a boring attempt to cram all the complexity of “This is Us” into a two-hour film.
“Life Itself” tells the story of Will and Abby, a young couple from New York who cross paths with Rodrigo and Isabel, a couple from Mexico. The plotline leads to an echoing effect, impacting their relationships and families through generations.
One of the only things the film truly succeeds in is the development of Will and Abby’s relationship. Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde have palpable chemistry. Both actors clearly put their all into these performances, even when the dialogue feels stripped directly from a Lifetime movie.
Fogelman tells Will and Abby’s love story in an interesting manner, using flashbacks that constantly change because of the characters’ mental state at the time. This idea of time and perspective is the centerpiece of the film, but it is completely misused. It is supposed to cover this echoe effect through generations, but each segment is indistinguishable from the last. Clothing, and even technology, remain constant through each “chapter” of the film and leaves the viewer wondering when an event actually took place.
“Life Itself” is constantly banging the audience over the head with its themes of time and perspective through an almost constant narration that is supposed to be vital to the film. This narration element of the movie is completely contradicted through the opening where Fogelman crafts a somewhat comical scene with Samuel L. Jackson emphasizing the absurdity of narration.
Obviously, Fogelman was not trying to be self-aware because this enforcement of the theme through narration is the emotional backbone of the ending. Instead of actually creating this “emotion” like it was intended to, it comes off as fake, forced and predictable.
There are many scenes throughout the film that seem like Fogelman is trying to force emotion out of the audience whether it be through shock or genuine performance. However, the unnatural dialogue and boring reverse shot direction leave any emotion out to dry.
The boring and predictable plot along with the cheesy dialogue and annoying narration makes “Life Itself” a drag of film that does not require a viewing in theaters.