STARRING: Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo, Ian Holm, Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Maury Chaykin, Tony Shalhoub, K. K Dodds, Ian McNeice, Christopher Gorham and Timothy Olyphant
Ewan McGregor stars as a cleaning man in L.A. who takes his boss’s daughter hostage after being fired and replaced by a robot. Two “angels” who are in charge of human relationships on earth, offer some unsolicited help to bring this unlikely couple together.
In Heaven, two angels are tasked with ensuring that mortals on Earth find love. These angels, O’Reilly and Jackson, haven’t had the best of luck with their cases, as most of them end either in divorce or misery. Their Captain, Gabriel, gives them a radical incentive – if their latest case doesn’t fall in love and stay in love, the two will be stuck on Earth forever. Meanwhile in Los Angeles, a janitor loses his job and storms in his boss’s office to confront him. By chance, this leads to Robert meeting Celine, the boss’s daughter and takes her hostage.
After Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, Danny Boyle stepped into this American-British black comedy collaborating once again with screenwriter John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald. We follow a janitor named Robert losing his job and replaced by a robot. To make matters worse for him, his girlfriend dumps him and he is evicted from his apartment. Seeing no other alternative, Robert storms in to his boss’s office and takes drastic measures into his own hands to get his job back…which leads to him taking his boss’s daughter Celine hostage. Meanwhile, two angels are assigned with the task of making sure that Robert and Celine fall and stay in love otherwise they’ll remain on Earth forever.
To put it lightly, A Life Less Ordinary is a bonkers concept of a film and it’s frantically stylised and edited in a way that only a film in the 90’s could be done. Ewan McGregor gives a solid performance as Robert, an ordinary guy that dreams of writing a trash novel that is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the business of kidnapping. Cameron Diaz’s Celine on the other hand is the polar opposite, a daughter of a wealthy businessman who has first hand experience of being the hostage before and spinning the wheels in motion of not only how Robert should follow the ‘kidnap 101’ guidebook, but how she can get something in return with her predicament. I thought the two gelled well together as the film progressed and their constant bickering at times brought on a few laughs (most notably the attempted robbery of a local bank). Holly Hunter, playing angel O’Reilly, literally steals the show and has terrific chemistry along her partner Jackson, played by Delroy Lindo.
While the concept on paper sounds really good, the execution leaves a certain scenes to fall flat. O’Reilly and Jackson decide to put themselves into the action to see how close Robert and Celine are getting to falling in the love, thus they get hired by Celine’s father as bounty hunters to get Celine back and kill Robert. This leads to a particular scene in which they meet Robert and Celine for the first time falls flat in any sort of tension or dread as we see them in harms way but know that the angels will never really commit to killing them. The tone of the film as well is all over the place as it attempts to juggle romance with fantasy and music numbers (for christ sake there’s even claymation come the end credits) and yet it never finds the right balance, which may put some viewers off completely. It also doesn’t help that if you don’t buy in the characters of Robert and Celine, or find either one of them annoying, then the romance surrounding them may not be your cup of tea. The final is concluded in a way that will be a reach for some, about as well wrapped up as it could be given the whole concept of what’s transpired before to others.
It may not be seen as a classic by the standards looked upon Danny Boyle’s other work in his filmography, I still found enjoyment in certain scenes and the main performances from the cast involved. It’s messy, with some unsympathetic characters that may put people off from enjoying the film. 6/10