Previously I wrote an extensive review of a movie that I hope others will not waste the amount of time I did to watch it, all the while wishing I was the one who was blindfolded. In 2018 we had people snacking on Tide Pods in 2019 we have this. To be honest, it had me laughing out loud while thinking, God help us all. Today’s post, continuing the movie theme, will be a review of a film that I think everybody should see at least once in their life. Here’s the best part (and also kind of the worst) if everyone does see it, it’s a personal recommendation that they only watch the first half. Just the beginning because I kid you not the first 20-40 minutes of this movie are better than any whole movie I have seen since 2012. That is not an exaggeration. It is not hyperbole for the sake of emphasis. Life Itself directed and written by Dan Fogelman, a writer from This is Us created a masterwork and released it to the public in the fall of 2018. It is unfortunate that only the beginning of the movie is terrific but the rest of it missing the mark doesn’t matter because the start is incredible. The remaining hour and a half are not awful so much as jumbled. Simply put, too many storylines for 117 minutes. Well, developed storylines but there were just too many. Storylines spanning multiple generations, four generations of family to be exact, which is okay because it’s written by someone from This is Us and anyone who watches that show knows those writers can jump through decades with the grace of a gazelle at sunrise. In this movie though, each generational story could have been its own film.
It was not necessary to have a central love story and then have Spanish silver-fox Mr. Saccione (Antonio Banderas) enter to reveal the times of his life. The acting was great on all counts; Dr. Cait Morris, (Annette Bening) Irwin Dempsey, (Mandy Patinkin) and Linda (Jean Smart) lived their roles wonderfully; as did Olivia Cooke from Ready Player One and Bates Motel. The movie would have been a ten across the board if each individual storyline was not so dominant that it caused interest in the development of the foreground couple to fade. Regardless of the steep drop off, Life Itself is still worth watching.
The film stars Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) a lovestruck couple who met in college. He’s intense and sincere and she’s layered and spontaneous. The love they have for each other grows as they do and soon they’re out of college and ready to start a family.
It’s beautiful because it’s not just a story of romance, we only see their immersive connection in flashbacks. A love straight out of a Lord Byron poem, one that is somehow hypnotizing rather than juvenile. Flashbacks the viewer wants to not only live to fullest in but die happily inside as well. Oh, to have a love like that. Nothing extravagant just two people who are undeniably better together than they ever were apart. Just two people who gave love as often as they accepted it. Just two people who delighted in each other’s habits and idiosyncrasies, knowing that their flaws made them more lovable. Just two people who unceasingly put the care and concern they had for each other before themselves.
We see the love we crave in memories of comfort and elation. The opening scene holds a much darker tone, a tone that if you saw it in theaters provokes the thought; am I in the right place? Is this the movie? Samuel L. Jackson (Samuel L. Jackson) playing himself, narrating a movie with a strong emotional pull caused some confusion. That is how it starts though. Samuel L. Jackson narrating the lines of a screenplay as it is being written for him by a broken down writer in a coffee shop.
It’s more than plausible that I was infatuated with this movie because it infused many of my infatuations. Such as writing, emotional connection, character-driven storytelling, meaningful relationships, pain, loss, and trauma. However, I saw it once, months ago and the majority of it was unimpressive yet here I am still reflecting on the best of it, this speaks the impression it made. There’s even a thread of the powerful force that is music, something that literally spans from one generation to the next. Showing me a version of how Sinatra began with my grandmother, who unconsciously passed his music down to my dad and then to me, an element certain to tug at my heartstrings. The musician, in this case, the one that Abby loves the most is not Sinatra but in the scene of her passionate explanation for who she loves and his, “intense, unexpected, genius.” I could picture my future self discussing the discography of who I consider the greatest of all time with someone I care about almost as much as the man and his music. She’s the type that makes you fall in love with what she loves. It’s the passion in her eyes, it draws others in.
5 reasons Life Itself (the beginning) is quite possibly better than any full-length film in 2018:
1. Perfect depiction of Trauma
The trauma in this film could not have been portrayed any more precisely than it was. The unraveling significant events and the characters who went through them was impeccable. The trauma is told from the point of view of the trauma victims. Trauma and PTSD, in this case, is not a linear process. It’s like grief in that it comes in waves. It’s unpredictable and severe. It’s damaging and unsettling. Trauma is like being haunted by one’s own mind. How do you escape your own thoughts when they play like a broken record that you never meant to press the needle too? Life Itself paints the picture of tragedy with subtle brushes as much as it does in bold strokes. That is how the story begins.
2. Immersed in the human experience
This is the second favorite point of the film because what is a story without realistic characters? A lecture. Who wants to sit through that? These characters, Will, the deep-thinking romantic, Abby, the sensual free-spirit and others are just people you want to love. They’re not perfect, they’re real. When the movie starts, instantly it is forgotten that the events are merely just images and dialogue on a screen delivered by actors. Viewers get to walk through the world with them. The composition of the film, scene after scene, allows one to step into the unpredictable flow of life itself.
3. Highlights connection and people becoming better together
It is seen through the grandparents and also the children, what is passed down and what is held onto and what not even time can take away. Two people finding each other and then simply refusing to ever let the other go. A dazzling loyalty. The willingness to sacrifice. The willingness to be selfless, to be devoted, to be secure in oneself while holding a firm grip on those they adore. Will and Abby live the promise of love rather than the relying on the feeling. Better together.
She’s the type that makes you fall in love with what she loves. It’s the passion in her eyes, it draws others in. -Genevieve Rose
4. The pain of loss
If nothing else moves you in the first half of Life Itself, the pain will. It’s palpable. What the characters endure, how it comes out of nowhere. The fact that it can barely be processed and the preferred method of dealing is self-medicating brazenly in public when it’s much too early to be doing anything of the sort. Watching the sequence unfold, the anguish in the character’s eyes, a character I did not know nor one that I wrote, the look in his eyes was enough to cause tears in mine.
5. The power of music
This should be point number one on the list because it ranks high on the passion scale of mine, best for last I suppose. Music is a theme. In this film, specifically, the music of Bob Dylan. Music is a theme for us all and the way Bob Dylan is passed from Abby to Will to the next generation is as moving as melody itself. Music carries the heart and soothes the soul. Performers may just be there for our entertainment but the world would be lost without them. Lost and devastated. Music is a support system, a motivator, a means with which to focus and accomplish, a shoulder to cry on, a cause for celebration. Music is a language of its own and often times, music is no language but our own.
The initial breakdown of a character in this movie almost made me cry but I actually broke when there was a performance of “Make You Feel My Love” from the Bob Dylan album Time Out of Mind. A song with this notable beautiful cover. The power of music, generation to generation. I broke because I’ve been there. Music has outlived the people who gave it to me. My grandmother may be gone and the others may have left but the music remains. The rock scream of wondering how to get out. The acoustic sound of not loving anyone but yourself. It can be a strange thing to hear those songs and then look over, instinctively as if those people are still around only to be reminded that they’re not. Nevertheless, Johnny Cash still strums his guitar without them. Sinatra still sings even with her gone. One of the best things I ever did for myself in my adult life: I found music that is my own. Music that nobody else I knew loved first. Music that was not recommended to me. Music that I discovered. Music that is my own. Music continues to play and it forever will. Maybe because music is the narrator. Maybe music is life itself.
Music is a language of its own and often times, music is no language but our own.-Genevieve Rose