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  Life Less Ordinary, A Angelic Upstarts
Year: 1997
Director: Danny Boyle
Stars: Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo, Ian Holm, Dan Hedaya, Ian McNeice, Frank Kanig, Mel Winkler, Stanley Tucci, Maury Chaykin, Anne Culimore Decker, Tony Shalhoub, Christopher Gorham, K.K. Dodds, Timothy Olyphant, David Stifel
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Romance, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: There's trouble in heaven: not enough people are falling in love and staying in love and so an order has come through from upstairs to do something about it, angels, or there will be consequences. Two of those angels, O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo), are called to the office of the archangel Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) and assigned to a couple who are not together yet, in fact they are barely aware the other exists. If the duo do not succeed in making a marriageable pair out of them both, then they lose their posts and possibly their existences as well. Yet it's not going to be easy when the girl, Celine (Cameron Diaz) is a rich heiress and the boy, Robert (Ewan McGregor), has just been sacked from his job at her father's business...

The Trainspotting team appeared to be able to do no wrong after the international success of their previous hit, but with A Life Less Ordinary all that promise seemed to go horribly awry somewhere along the way. It was one of those films where you could see what they were aiming at, but in spite of you practically willing them to pull it off, they were not quite able to manage it. The mixture of fantasy, romance, comedy and thrills fell flat as if the script needed more work, the cast needed more rehearsing, and the production needed more polish, which made it so frustrating that there were individual moments here that did indeed live up to the premise and showed the movie that could have been.

It's not exactly amateurish, but it is all over the place as it tried to hold those elements together, making for a work that might have looked great in isolated clips, but was overall too antagonistic for most audiences. The characters are forever arguing, which is fair enough as in many of the genres it touched on that aspect was included, but with this the tone was more bad tempered than sparky. The lovers are brought together through a chance meeting in that Celine is in her father's office when Robert barges into the room brandishing the cleaning robot which has taken his livelihood, and one thing leads to another resulting in him kidnapping her under the noses of the boss's security guards.

Trouble is, Robert is hopeless all round, wishing he could become a bestselling novelist and completely ill-prepared for a life of crime. As it transpires, Celine has more experience than he does, having been kidnapped when she was little, and to spite her coldhearted father (Ian Holm) she coaches Robert in the finer points of lawbreaking: demanding ransoms, robbing banks, that sort of thing. The fact that they are supposed to be falling in love is not lost on O'Reilly and Jackson, as they are sent on the couple's trail by the boss with orders to kill Robert while bringing his daughter home, which sort of suits the angels as their plan to fire Cupid's arrow involves putting them in jeopardy to make them realise how much potential they have in a romantic situation.

We're never in any doubt that they will get it together, but that doesn't make it any more believable. Would a haughty heiress really fall for a nobody who has nothing but a vivid imagination on his side? Even if she did, the film has a hard time convincing us watching, and despite Herculean efforts from McGregor and Diaz it never conveys anything other than being convenient to the plot. Throwing in various sequences that the filmmakers must have thought would look great on the big screen, such as a musical number (Celine is amusingly tone deaf) or a ransom collecting scene which erupts into all out violence, and you're left wondering not so much about the affair developing between the two lead characters, but how they ever thought this would come together satisfactorily. Yet for all its flaws, ambition was not one of them, and as a brave failure it has more ideas than many mediocre successes. We got a good Ash song out of it, too. Music by David Arnold (amidst a bunch of other people's tunes).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Danny Boyle  (1956 - )

British director, from TV, who started his movie career with two big homegrown hits: Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. His Hollywood efforts suggested he's better when based in the U.K., as both 2005's kids comedy Millions and the hit zombie shocker 28 Days Later were big improvements on his two previous features, A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach.

Alex Garland, who wrote 28 Days Later, then scripted Boyle's ambitious sci-fi epic Sunshine. Boyle next enjoyed worldwide and Oscar success with Slumdog Millionaire, the biggest hit of his career, which he followed with true life survival drama 127 Hours and tricksy thriller Trance, in between staging the 2012 London Olympics to great acclaim. Business biopic Steve Jobs was a flop, however.

 
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