You can see "Life or Something Like It" coming from a mile away, and Angelina Jolie's platinum hair and vintage Marilyn Monroe saunter are only part of the reason. Yet while there is no question how the romantic comedy will resolve the choice between love and career, it did pause just long enough to lodge a few things in my brain. Angelina Jolie's platinum hair and Marilyn Monroe saunter first and foremost, but also a few things about...you know....life.
When we meet Jolie's character, Lanie Kerrigan is on top of the world, at least in Seattle, where her career as a photogenic TV reporter has made her a local celebrity. She has neatly doubled her celebrity through her engagement to the star player on the Seattle Mariners. When the two are in town at the same time, they even see each other. Kerrigan has a large ultra-modern apartment that appears to be just down the hall from Fraser's. Yet Lanie is ready to bolt Seattle in a heartbeat upon learning she's in the running for a slot on the network morning show in New York.
The first drip on Lanie's parade is a cameraman named Pete, played by Ed Burns. Pete's life has moved the other way. He used to be network hotshot, but moved to Seattle to be near his young son and wear flannel shirts. Apparently Pete and Lanie have a history and have sworn never to work with each other again. But their producer throws them together to file some on-the-street feature stories. Pete immediately resumes his harassment of the shallow blonde, and she is just as quick to dismiss him, already envisioning Seattle in her rearview mirror. The screenwriters were good enough to have another member of their crew say "why don?t the two of you just get a room already?" saving us all the charade of pretending the princess and the pauper don't have an irresistible chemistry that will now become the heart of the film.
The remaining device is a homeless street prophet, played by Tony Shaloub, who tells Lanie she will die within a week, along with some other random predictions that begin coming true. And here, where our shallow blonde newscaster is forced to examine her life, the film actually slows down enough for her to do it, and for us to believe it. As easy as it would be to bury "Life or Something Like It" for it's own obvious ambitions and unfortunate pat ending, there is a faint, lingering heartbeat of Jolie breathing depth and sympathy into a stock character, Ed Burns showing that he might be a better actor than he is a director, and Tony Shaloub again demonstrating just how much he can do with minimal screen time. There's also a good moment near the end, where Lanie Kerrigan, making her network debut, interviews her role model, a Barbara Walters-ish icon played by Stockard Channing. The question she asks the fiercely ambitious, highly manipulative, powerful and feared female TV news personality is....was it worth it?
It's a good moment but the film doesn't have an answer. Not that I really expected it to solve the conundrum of career women, feminism and family. Which leaves us with the question: is the movie worth it? Which I answer with a question: can you really put a price on "Life or Something Like It?" To which I further respond, yes. Three dollars and 25 cents. That's how much it should cost to rent it. In a few months. On one of those nights when you and a partner feel like examining life. Without...you know...getting all heavy about it.
© 2002 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 5/1/02
Life or Something Like It
US - 2002