Life As We Know It
Review by Lisa Giles-Keddie
NOT TO be confused with the 2005 teen angst series full of hormonally-charged monologues, this is a new comedy from Green Lantern writer/producer Greg Berlanti who cut his directing teeth back on little known rom-com, The Broken Hearts Club: A Romance Comedy, over 10 years ago.
Berlanti has since had ample practice lifting relationships off the page and onto the screen, even the trickiest ones, after the successful TV series Brothers and Sisters.
He now takes his expertise to the big screen for his first feature film, starring Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel in the leads, and it’s a generous, witty and observant affair, if a tad predictable, as any rom-com commonly is.
To be fair, the genre is probably one of the most entrenched to try and vary, as we want the ‘rom’ and the ‘com’ and as near a happy ending as possible.
What needs to work well is how we get from point A to B and Life As We Know It brings a very real and sobering situation that many child-rearing adults will instantly relate to and tries not to trivialise the seriousness of it, but approach it with some thought, humour and a little wisdom.
That said, the film does suffer from smug ‘Nancy Meyers domestic bliss’ syndrome, as the recently deceased parents have the ‘home to die for’ (pardon the pun) to help their chosen guardians bring up their darling daughter in.
Plus, Heigl as Holly Berenson, a successful businesswoman who finds she’s suddenly left holding the baby, is reminiscent of Streep’s equally priggish Jane Adler character in Meyers’s It’s Complicated, running the idyllic, small-town patisserie.
How aptly ‘mumsy’, perhaps? Jealous? You bet. But Life As… doesn’t falter on portraying what all rom-coms do: depict the relationship ideal, allowing for a bit of frivolous escapism, whilst prompting us to identify with regular issues along the way.
In that sense, Berlanti hits rom-com casting gold with Heigl, who simply reverts back to type in a role that we enjoy seeing her play, over and over again: the obsessive, neurotic professional desperate for a break.
Knocked Up instantly springs to mind, to be honest, what with a child in need of care, but because the writing is a little less slapstick than Judd Apatow’s offering, Heigl gets to take and be taken more seriously as Holly, whilst layering on the sarcasm and quips in her deliciously naughty but sexy gal-next-door way.
In fact, Heigl has reached that stage in a rom-com where she can confidently be the primary comedy protagonist, which make her screen portrayals all the more convincing and aspiring.
Rising screen heart-throb and ‘Mr Fergie’, Duhamel plays insufferable jock/TV sports producer Eric Messer, who also just happens to be Holly’s long-term nemesis and the Desperate Housewives-styled neighbourbood’s babe magnet.
He seems very comfortable supporting Heigl, but ups her game by injecting child-like rebellion into the part with amusing results, whilst causing considerable drool, both on and off the screen, with a couple of well-placed stretches and underwear-lounging shots.
Surprise, surprise, Holly and Eric find ways to cope with being around each other under one roof, and loathing turns to love along the way, sweeping both off their feet.
It’s the ultimate modern-day fairytale where both parties are expected to ‘save’ each other, rather than just Prince Charming.
Another entertaining factor of this rom-com is the fun observational moments that might be lost on those not regularly exposed to littleuns, which include dropping the baby, changing the baby, watching the first steps taken by the baby, and trying to decipher the universal mystery that is kids’ TV with the baby – all spot on.
Berlanti tries to avoid making his characters two-dimensional, balancing the rough with the smooth with little gems of surprise delight through a relatively smart script.
As a first foray into mainstream feature film-making, he doesn’t fare too badly, helped by the Heigl/Duhamel appeal, whilst taking a leaf out of the feel-good Meyers rom-com production manual and, in doing so, targeting a wider audience.
Running time: 114mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: March 28, 2011