It’s been months since we have had a good old-fashioned date movie and that makes this one particularly welcome.
Angelina Jolie plays Lanie, a television news reporter in Seattle who thinks her life is just about perfect. For her, that means a great apartment, great friends, a great fiance, and a shot at her dream job on the network. And perfection is what she strives for, from the tip of her cotton candy hair helmet to the calves that show the effect of thousands of hours on a stairclimber. She never questions what she wants or what she has to do to get there.
But she is sent to do a story on a homeless man who predicts the future, and he tells her what the score will be in the football game to be played later that day. He tells her that it will hail the next morning. And he tells her that she will not get the job she wants, and has only a week to live. When the first two predictions come true, she begins to think that she might just have a week to live, and that her life is not so perfect after all.
Where did Lanie get her ideas about what constiituted perfection? There is some nonsense about sibling rivalry with a sister who has a rich husband and a fancy house. What makes more sense is that Lanie gets her idea of perfection from the very place she seeks it, television. With an indestructible platinum helmet hairdo, flawless muscle tone, and a baseball player fiance, she is a cross between Marilyn Monroe and Barbara Walters. Her idol is Deborah Connors (Stockard Channing), the queen of interviewers, who always gets her subjects to cry.
The prospect of having no more time makes Lainie think about what she was postponing. The first surprise is who she asks for advice. She turns for help to a man she thought she hated, Pete (Edward Burns), her cameraman. He tells her to talk to the people she cares about most.
The script has no surprises, but Jolie and Burns have a nice rythym as they constantly ask each other to define their words. It is easy to believe that they would both be attracted to someone who doesn’t let them get away with easy charm. The biggest surprise is Jolie in a role clearly designed for someone like Meg Ryan or Sandra Bullock. She doesn’t let Lanie get too cute and shows us Lanie’s vulnerability, inescurity, and her capacity for giddy joy.
Parents should know that the movie has some strong language. An unmarried couple lives together and there are references to a drunken sexual encounter and an out of wedlock pregnancy. Getting drunk is portrayed as freeing. There is non-graphic violence. Some viewers may be upset by the seer’s prediction. And some younger viewers may be disturbed by the reference to divorced parents, even though it is amicable.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we decide what “perfection” means to each of us and whose approval matters most to us. How do we live in a way that balances planning for the future with recognizing what is important in the present. How do our family dynamics transfer over into our work relationships? Why didn’t Lanie understand how important she was to her father?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the black and white classic “Theodora Goes Wild.” They will also enjoy Martha Beck’s book “Following Your North Star.”