‘Life Itself’ is a difficult film to explain… but I’m gonna try

Life Itself is a new romantic comedy of sorts. Dan Fogelman wrote and directed the film. He is most well known for being the mastermind behind the smash hit show This is Us. The film is very similar to This is Us from a narrative perspective. The film follows an assorted cast of characters and their trials and tribulations through life. 

Early in the film the focus is on Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) characters. The film chronicles the origins of their relationship in college and then focuses on their married life. 

The second storyline focuses on the daughter of Will and Abby, played well by the exceptionally talented Olivia Cooke. 

The third and final storyline focuses on the romantic endeavors of two young lovers in the Spanish countryside. This storyline takes up the later portion of the second act and all three converge in the 3rd act. 

Now the burning question that many of you readers are thinking. Is Life Itself any good? Kind of. 

The first act of the film is terrific. Early in the film, Will comments how he and Abby wanted to write a screenplay. They said it would be a Tarantino-esque film about a husband and wife, and that is essentially what the first act is. Its got all the Tarantinoisms including the vulgar dialogue, dark humor, and even a Samuel L Jackson cameo. This portion of the movie is by far the best. I love Tarantino movies and Fogelman does a decent job replicating the feel of a Tarantino film. It’s unique and an official Tarantino rom-com is something I would now love to see. Oscar Issac and Olivia Wilde are great in this portion of the movie as well. The two have terrific chemistry and feel like a genuine couple.

However, the entire film is not like this. Later the film focuses on the daughter of Will and Abby.  This storyline is far less engaging; it still has the vulgar dialogue and some effective dark humor, but it feels far less inspired. Most of the characters are uninteresting, with Olivia Cooke being the only exception. Cooke brings vivacious passion to a mostly cliche and thinly written character. 

The film’s setting changes from the bustling Big Apple to the quaint Spanish countryside. The film hones in on Javier, a hardworking man who picks olives on a rich man’s estate. The film focuses on his relationship with his wife Isabel, his son Rodrigo, and his boss (well played by Antonio Banderas). This storyline is solid for the most part. The acting is all solid, especially Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Lalia Costa, but its sluggish pace is a hindrance. This storyline allows the audience to watch Javier’s young son Rodrigo grow up, which is enjoyable. 

Life is unpredictable. Life is unreliable. Life is constantly changing. These ideas are the main theme and message of Life Itself; this is clearly spelled out for the audience on multiple occasions. The film is full of emotional moments. Half of these are effective; but unfortunately, the other half are emotionally manipulative and forced.

Overall, Life Itself is like life. It has it has high points and it has low points, and if you enjoy romantic films you just might enjoy this.