Life Less Ordinary, A

Just imagine what you would get if the director of Trainspotting
turned his hand to romantic comedy and, sure enough,
that’s pretty much what you get with
Danny Boyle’s A Life Less
. As with Trainspotting and their earlier hit, Shallow
, Boyle is joined by Andrew Macdonald (producer) and John Hodge
(writer), but by now their peculiar blend of magic realism, street cynicism and
playfully postmodern metaphysics would be wearing little thin even if they did
not also suffer from the usual problem of successful young filmmakers, which is
self-indulgence— the most common consequence of which is the disappearance
of any sense of artistic (and sometimes financial too) economy. The artist
throws in every good idea he has ever had, and the cumulative effect is a very
bad idea indeed.

Delroy Lindo and Holly Hunter play a couple of street-wise angels called
Jackson and O’Reilly, employed by God
Inc whose c.e.o., Gabriel (Dan Hedaya), sends them on a mission to earth.
Referring darkly to “pressure from
above” in the face of rampant divorce
“for men and women to be united in
eternal bliss,” Gabriel tells them
bring together in love a completely unlikely couple. This mission is subject to
“new incentive
scheme” which is
“You do it or you
don’t come
back.” Liberatum mani says
out of my hands.”

Compared to the unlikelihood of Mr Lindo and Miss Hunter, the couple of Ewan
McGregor and Cameron Diaz hardly looks unlikely at all, but the
film’s authors have in their nudging,
winking postmodern way done what they could to exaggerate the differences
between the two. Mr McGregor plays Robert, a janitor and would-be novelist who
is fired from his job with the giant Naville Corporation and replaced by a
robot. He confronts his boss (Ian Holm) just as the latter is having a painful
interview with his rebellious daughter, Celine (Miss Diaz), and, on the spur of
the moment, Robert takes her hostage. So the film becomes another
kidnapper-hostage romance like last
month’s Excess Baggage. Boyle
and Co have done a better job with the theme, but it is still pure

Not that that matters to them, of course. Celine tells Robert she has been
kidnapped once before, so she is able to give him, hopelessly inept as he is,
some pointers. This sets up most of the rest of the jokes in the picture.
“How am I
doing?” he asks her, eager to please.
Almost always he is doing very badly, but she, obviously a take-charge kind of
gal, humors him as she leads him around by the nose. And he is content to be
led, and to take up the feminine role in their developing relationship.
all I am to you,” he whines, for all
the world like a pouty wife. “The
latest kidnapper! A lifestyle accessory. You criticize everything I

The angels appear periodically, but it is never clear what they are doing, or
why their various, mostly unsuccessful, schemes for bringing Robert and Celine
together should require angelic intelligence or power. They become an
irrelevance, an extra added attraction in a film that
doesn’t even bother to try to hold
itself together as a single artistic whole. The angels are like the fantasy of
romantic love which ends the picture: an unashamed acknowledgement of cinematic
artifice and fakery. But it is the kind of fakery we like so (the attitude seems
to be) why not?

Interestingly, however, the filmmakers include something that sounds a lot
more like their real opinion in a brief cameo turn by Tony Shalhoub as Al, the
proprietor of the diner where Robert goes to work, mopping the floor, during the
splitup with Celine which we know must precede their final reunion. When Celine
comes looking for him, he spurns her, telling Al:
not my type.”

type!” says Al scornfully.
“Look at you!
You’re nothing.
You’re broke, on the run from the law
and cleaning the floor in a crumby diner and
she’s rich and smart and beautiful.
The question is not likely to arise in this world—or, indeed the next. She
will be going to some heaven for glamorous p**** and you will be cleaning the
floor of a diner in hell.”

Of course, if they’d said what they
really thought about their hyper-romantic premiss, they
wouldn’t have been able to sell many

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