Do a little investigative research on those involved with the making of Life As We Know It and you’ll discover that this is the first feature film screenplay by writing partners Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson. And it is apparent that neither writes with intimate knowledge of what it means to be thrust into parenthood. Take out the toddler, and it’s Romantic Comedy 101. Even with the kid, it’s Romantic Comedy 101. It has all the situations we’ve come to expect.
There’s an off-again, on-again, off-again, on-again relationship. A climax scene involves racing to the airport. And there’s a romantic embrace at the end, because the audience can’t leave without a happy ending. Life As We Know It, on the surface, may look like a story about two adoptive parents loving a child, but it’s more about said parents squabbling until finally falling for each other. A plate of marijuana brownies may have played a role, or they both could have been jonesing for some sexual healing. Whatever the case may be, the only ones being fooled are audiences who agree to buy a ticket for this magic carpet ride.
Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl) is a career gal. She owns her own little bakery and catering shop and is a bit of a control freak, making sure everything’s perfect. Such perfection leaves little time for social activities (in short: dating). Hmmm, Heigl’s a control freak and she can’t land a man. We’ve never seen her play that role before. Oh wait, we have. She’s been a working gal without a man at the start of her last three features, including 27 Dresses and The Ugly Truth, but she’s always been able to find the perfect one for her in the end. That’s where movie fantasy ends; we never know if the relationships last.
Holly knows Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel) through their mutual best friends, Peter and Alison Novack (Hayes MacArthur and Mad Men‘s Christina Hendricks). The friends even tried to get them to go on a blind date. It didn’t get beyond the curb of Holly’s apartment complex. Eric’s a ladies’ man, always knowing when to let the opposite sex lead the conversation, with him playing the dumbstruck male. It doesn’t work with Holly because of their friendships with Peter and Alison, or it could just be their oil and water personalities. Still, they interact frequently mostly due to Peter and Alison, and their one-year-old daughter, Sophie. Then tragedy strikes.
Peter and Alison are killed in a car accident. Their will specified that in the event of their deaths that joint custody be given to Holly and Eric, Sophie’s godparents. Together, Holly and Eric move into the Novack house and work out a schedule so that will help them to take care of little Sophie and maintain their careers (Messer, as he likes to be called, is the technical director of Atlanta Hawks NBA telecasts). Personalities collide and conflicts arise, but Sophie is always the most important person in this triangle relationship of working gal, ladies’ man and baby. As the seasons change so does their combative behavior. Hate becomes love and the rest sort of writes itself.
Greg Berlanti, show runner for such TV series as Everwood and Brothers & Sisters, only serves in a directing capacity and one has to wonder why he chose this screenplay to direct. Considering his TV background with shows centered around families, he probably thought he could direct this in his sleep. Life As We Know It plays like a TV dramedy, involving parenting duties for two adults who have a hard enough time struggling with their own lives and careers. At no time do we expect the bickering to escalate to Revolutionary Road territory, but with the cartoonish antics on display some may wish for Messer to break a piece of furniture.
Berlanti goads the audience along. When he wants them to feel sympathetic or laugh, he’ll offer a music cue or give us close-ups of Sophie. Her facial gestures will make some “awww” and others wince. As the film progresses, Sophie becomes less and less important, despite her being the most important person to the story. Nope, she’s simply a prop. Like a real-life Betsy Wetsy doll that’s somewhere in the house as Holly and Messer make googly eyes.
And I’m sorry but Katherine Heigl just bores me. Don’t get me wrong. Seeing her as an attractive blonde that has problems dating men instills hope for all the lovelorn guys looking for Ms. Right. But that’s all she plays. Give her a different colored wig, or a backbone, something that at least makes her less of a “blonde.” Josh Duhamel, in his second rom-com of the year (When in Rome was the first), is controlled in his role, but even a blind person can see that there’s no love connection between these two characters. Complicating matters is Josh Lucas, a pediatrician that Heigl fancies, but is ultimately the “fallback suitor.” Sorry, dude, you’re just Ducky with a healthy bank account and a better haircut.
Life As We Know It is not a good picture about parenthood. It’s not even a good romantic comedy. It is manipulative in how it tells the story of two polar opposite adults forced into raising a child together. The fact that their mutual friends never sat down and explained to Holly and Messer about legal guardianship in the case of their demise should tell you right there the type of reality they live in. Those wanting a good laugh at unplanned parenthood should revisit Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up. It may not be a how-to guide in preparing to raise a child, but it will make you laugh, and it features Katherine Heigl before she decided to put her acting career on cruise control.
Director: Greg Berlanti Notable Cast: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas Writer(s): Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson
Travis Leamons is one of the Inside Pulse Originals and currently holds the position of Managing Editor at Inside Pulse Movies. He's told that the position is his until he's dead or if "The Boss" can find somebody better. I expect the best and I give the best. Here's the beer. Here's the entertainment. Now have fun. That's an order!