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Friday
Oct082010

Life as We Know It

How do you defend the indefensible? I know, thinking from the movie critic part of my brain, that Life as We Know It is a bad movie and other critics will scoff at its trite, ridiculous, formulaic story, but there’s something about it that drew me in. I’m aware of its faults—it’s a sloppy movie from top to bottom (including one very noticeable blurry shot that is downright inexcusable for a major motion picture)—but I liked it. Although I never want to see it again, it’s a major step up from the onslaught of other 2010 romantic comedy dreck.

The story begins in 2007 and Holly (Katherine Heigl) is about to head out on a blind date with Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel). Both are friends with Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter Novak (Hayes MacArthur) and were set up to meet each other. However, from the moment their eyes meet, they hate each other. In fact, they don’t even get to the restaurant before calling it a night. Holly then angrily tells Alison that the only way she can make it up to her is if she promises she’ll never have to see Eric again. So naturally, they cross paths again. As the montage during the opening credits shows, they run into each other many, many more times at events thrown by the Novaks, but after tragedy strikes and the Novaks pass away, Holly and Eric are forced to bond because they are left with their one year old child, together named the guardians of little Sophie (Brooke Clagett) despite not being a couple.

Life as We Know It is manipulative and the filmmakers know it. It takes an easy emotional target (killing off two beloved friends) and then ups the ante by tossing in a now orphaned child. That’s one contribution to its inevitable critical hatred. Another is the predictable story where it’s obvious that by the end (spoilers!) the two leads will fall for each other and live happily ever after, raising the kid as if it was their own.

To toss another cliché into the fire, before that final resolution, there’s even an airport chase scene where one character rushes through the terminals to stop the other from leaving. Because of these factors, I understand why people will hate it, but the movie going experience is just as much about emotion as it is the technical aspects and only the coldest of souls (and the not so easily fooled film critics) won’t have their heartstrings pulled. I pitied Holly and Eric as their lives were turned upside down, having not only lost their best friends, but also dumped with the important responsibility of raising their child, a task neither of them were prepared for.

It’s an unlikely real life scenario, but not unheard of and the two leads do a fantastic job of showing the hurt and pain they’re going through with the uncertainty and reluctance of raising a kid. Heigl, who has appeared in nothing but trash since Knocked Up (like 27 Dresses, Killers and The Ugly Truth, all equally awful), redeems herself here, even if only slightly. An early emotional breakdown shows that she isn’t all looks. She actually has some talent somewhere behind that pretty face and Duhamel, a wonderfully charming and handsome man if there ever was one, perfectly complements her.

You may see where the story is heading from the start, but it feels believable and that’s what matters. It’s even pretty funny, with some sly references to Slumdog Millionaire and Speed, and it features a supporting cast full of faces you’ll recognize, but won't be able to put a name to.

I don’t want to come off as a defender of this film because, from its messy direction to its been-there-done-that script, it’s pretty bad. But sometimes emotions trump those technical aspects. While not overwhelming, there was something in Life as We Know It that got the best of me.

Life as We Know It receives 3/5