“Life” is full of surprises
Perhaps it is the pummeling we tender hearted but critically demanding rom-com fans have taken recently what with so many contrived and poorly written films that exhibited a dearth of, well, romance and comedy.
But along comes “Life As We Know It” which could describe what may very well exist in the genre and give hope for those who still watch “Sleepless in Seattle” at least once a year. “Life” is genuinely heartfelt and surprisingly effective in the departments of both laughs and tears, and represents an uptick in the notably declining career of star Katherine Heigl (“The Ugly Truth,” “Killers”).
Her co-star, Josh Duhamel, a rock-steady presence in all his work, helps Heigl considerably. Heigl and Duhamel are Holly and Messer, a cosmically mispaired couple who are godparents of a child that becomes an orphan. As directed in the will of the parents (Hayes MacArthur, Christina Hendricks), custody of the infant girl is given to the two whose first date years before ended before it started because of control freak bakery owner Holly’s oil to Messer’s laid-back TV sports director’s water.
A preposterous premise perhaps, but the joy of “Life As We Know It” is how the script (By Ivan Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson) weaves carefully through parenting’s typical challenges (feedings, financials, and finagling schedules) yet allows a credible rooting interest in the couple to establish its more serious moments. Between the diapers and the drama much of “Life As We Know It” feels real and unforced.
Another key element for success in this type of film is the requisite supporting ensemble, and it is obvious “Life” spent adequate time developing quirky and honestly funny characters. Most notable are a bubbly friend played by Melissa McCarthy, a “baby whisperer” tween-age sitter portrayed by Britt Flatmo, and Josh Lucas, who is Holly’s “other guy,” and likeable as a successful pediatric doctor.
Director Greg Berlanti (TV’s “Everwood”) has shown a light hand with feel-good drama, and just when you think it’s going into cliché territory (the climatic airport scene), “Life As You Know It” throws you a curve.
So maybe we’re starved for anything in the rom-com genre that doesn’t smack (too loudly or too often) of desperation or manipulation.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language, and some sexual content.