A movie... or something like it
Life or Something Like It is the movie that asks the question, if you had only a week to live, would you sleep with Edward Burns?
It also asks whether, given the film's premise, you really think they're going to kill off Angelina Jolie in the last reel. The opening finds her character, Seattle TV reporter Lanie Kerrigan, on an operating table with her life flashing before our eyes. This includes a clip of her role model, Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Can we buy America's favorite brunette as a blonde? Hell, yes! The trailers have been running long enough and the posters are ubiquitous enough to get us used to the idea. Furthermore while the movie itself skews heavily feminine, Jolie appeals to both sexes (as they do to her).
With her career on the fast track, Lanie is submitted to the network for a slot on their "AM USA" show. As a contrivance to get us into the romantic plot, her Seattle boss wants her to learn the mechanics of a camera operator's job from his best guy, Pete Scanlon (Burns), even though she doesn't want to work with him.
Our lives would be so simple if we would just marry the person we have the hardest time getting along with, as they do in the movies, instead of marrying the person we love and not getting along with him or her later. Lanie hates Pete because he's honest with her: "You carefully construct every moment of your life to project the right image," and because he says things like, when she asks the boss to let her out of working with him, "You got another cameraman on staff who can make her look like a natural blonde?"
When Lanie interviews homeless street savant Prophet Jack (Tony Shalhoub) he looks in her eyes and tells her, "Next Thursday you're gonna die. I'm sorry." She's not sure how seriously to take this until his predictions about sports and the weather come true; then she gets nervous.
On Pete's advice, Lanie starts thinking about the quality of her life (thus far, "a meaningless quest for the approval of others") for the time she has left, including whether she really wants to marry the baseball player she's engaged to. She starts eating something other than lettuce, smoking openly, and ignoring her appearance. Finally she lets herself go on camera, turning a story about a transportation strike into a rock concert.
Pete's assistant, observing their sparring, asks the question on everyone's mind, "Why don't you two get a room already?"
There's never any question where Life or Something Like It is going, other than Pete's room, the only question is what route it will take to get there. And how sappy it will get along the way. The answer to the latter is maybe four on a ten scale, and not for too long.
Because this is a PG-13 movie, Jolie's lips get more attention than her breasts. She's the perfect romantic heroine for this kind of story, and Burns, who has never been sexier, shows he's better off when he doesn't create his own roles, even though that's what jumpstarted his career in the first place.
The casting is odd in that most of the women other than Jolie look pretty much alike: Lanie's best friend and co-worker, her sister, their mother, Pete's ex-wife; and even Stockard Channing, brilliant as always as a TV interviewer known for making her subjects cry. (How original!)
Life or Something Like It is unlikely to change anyone's life. It may make you think briefly about how fucked up your priorities are, but you already knew that. You'll forget the picture and its Life lessons before you make any drastic changes, but you'll have spent a pleasant hour-and-three-quarters at the movies.