Life Itself


Life Itself 

Full disclosure: I’ve never seen an episode of Dan Fogelman’s This Is Us. But if the popular TV show he created is anything like Life Itself, the second movie he’s written and directed, I never will. Mind you, I was no fan of his freshman feature, Danny Collins, a film that actually made me feel embarrassed for Al Pacino, who played an aging ’70s rock star in search of a second act some 40 years after his prime. Less hoo-ah than pure hooey, at least it wasn’t interminable, like Fogelman’s time-hopping latest, which begins in the present, doubles back to 1985, then bounds ahead through the decades before concluding sometime around 2070, a year that’s weirdly indistinguishable from the here and now. The only contemporary thing missing from this future, which inexplicably features thriving, brick-and-mortar bookstores, is Will Dempsey (Oscar Isaac), since we’re introduced to his suicidal romantic back in 2018, courtesy of an onscreen narrator named “Samuel L. Jackson,” who’s played by, yes, Samuel L. Jackson. This kitschy bit of stunt-casting functions as the first of a few references to Pulp Fiction—a film that’s actually enriched by its chronology-shuffling structure, unlike Fogelman’s time-hopping drama of cosmic coincidence, which commandeers Quentin Tarantino’s inclination toward sudden, violent death. A little advice? Don’t become too attached to the multigenerational cast of characters played by Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Laia Costa and Antonio Banderas, lest you risk falling for Fogelman’s phony profundity

. (At Assembly RowBoston Common, FenwaySeaportSouth Bay and in the suburbs.)

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