Sunday, March 13, 2011

Movie Log: A Life Less Ordinary

This is a weird movie from just over a decade ago, mostly forgotten (and justifiably so). It's one of the answers to the question "So what did Danny Boyle do in between Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire?" (Another answer to that question is Millions, a much better movie I saw a few years ago.)

But A Life Less Ordinary was the movie Boyle did right after Trainspotting, a buddy-heist drama meets romantic comedy in which a befuddled Ewan McGregor kidnaps and then supposedly romances a steely Cameron Diaz. (And both of them look ridiculously young now, since the movie is from 1997.) And I haven't gotten into the weird part yet: the whole McGregor-Diaz plot is run by two angels (the great Holly Hunter, whose voice makes any movie she's in a joy, and the almost as great Delroy Lindo) who have been exiled to earth in penance for a recent huge slump in the numbers of marriages breaking up under their care. (Yes, these are true love angels.) The movie begins in Heaven -- the usual white-on-white treatment, though I saw at least one woman with a skirt I wouldn't expect would pass Upstairs approval -- with Hunter and Lindo being bawled out by their boss and kicked downstairs for the requisite One Last Chance.

And, since True Love is often forged by shared danger and privation, these two angels maneuver McGregor, a recently-fired janitor, into kidnapping Diaz, the spoiled daughter of the tycoon whose company just canned him. And then the angels get themselves hired as bounty hunters by Diaz's nasty father (Ian Holm), so they can increase the danger and fire up that necessary True Love.

A Life Less Ordinary isn't a bad movie: it's full of good actors doing good work, speaking lines that all make sense at the time. But it's bizarre in conception and execution and never finds the tone that will make all of its oddities seem obvious and right. Less importantly, the title has nothing at all to do with the actual plot -- neither McGregor nor Diaz is seeking a particular kind of life, and they're both being very strongly manipulated by the two angels anyway. This is a movie that was at least one major rewrite away from being ready to film -- but it went ahead anyway, and the result was an interesting mess.

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