In a similar format to Academy Award wining Best Picture ‘Crash’, new Dan Fogelman drama ‘Life Itself’ tells several different stories that interweave with each other due to one main event. However, with no awards buzz at all it maybe looks like this Amazon Studios drama doesn’t execute its story as successfully as the previous Oscar winner did. Thankfully the film has an Oscar of its own, Oscar Isaac that is. He’s just one of the many stars that make up the film’s ensemble cast which also includes Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas.
With acting alumni as impressive as this it’s no surprise that the performances across the board are very strong. Isaac is particularly intrinsic in initially drawing audiences into the narrative as he delivers a layered and deeply emotional performance. His chemistry with co-star Wilde is great as they portray couple Will and Abby. They present a relationship which is endearing to watch, one that you immediately root for and that doesn’t become tiresome or sickly. The rest of the cast exhibit a similar level of quality that consistently enhances the storytelling. There is a lot of sentiment in the narrative, no doubt too much for some viewers. Futhermore, the ultimate conclusion of these stories is cheesy and too convenient as well as proving to be predictable from too early a stage in the run time. This overwhelming indulgence of emotion risks undermining the drama as a whole but the strength of the performances save the melo-dramatic story thanks to their compelling nature.
Dan Fogelman’s previous work includes writing the screenplay for the hilarious comedy romance ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ and whilst nowhere near as smart you can once again see his skill and ability to connect and overlap stories well in his screenplay here. These stories are thoughtfully woven together and the film reveals essential details in an order that allows for the most captivating experience for audiences. There are several playful ideas and story telling techniques used, mostly seen nearer the beginning of the film which also work in its favour grabbing and maintaining the attention of its viewers. These more unorthodox story telling techniques aside, the content of each of the film’s chapters, albeit some more than others prove very affecting. The tone of the film is one of constant emotion and whilst the amalgamation of tragedy and suffering present throughout might be too much to realistically comprehend these individual chapters are compelling in their own right.
It’s safe to say that with a less talented or experienced cast this melodrama could have been a disaster. Fogelman shows glimpses of his previous writing brilliance here but will veer dangerously too close to convenience and sensationalism for some audiences. However, for those who can embrace the strongly sentimental tone that the film exudes the performers will provide for them a wealth of engaging and effective emotion that gives the screenplay more credibility than it has itself.
Written by Hamish Calvert
Rating – 7/10
Question: What is your favourite Dan Fogelman screenplay?
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