Life Itself (2018): Fogelman’s Pretentious Film

It would be wrong to describe Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself a sophomore jinx, since his first movie, the 2015 Danny Collins was not good either, despite the presence of Al Pacino.

It’s almost hard to believe that Fogelman is the same writer and producer of the interesting TV series, such as This Is Us.

Pretentious and overwrought, Life Itself (bad title) aspires to be an intellectual treatise or deep philosophical meditation about the nature of our existence as well as the unreliable nature of narration.

The tale is divided into chapters, narrated by or centering on different characters, who belong to different generations but are connected to each other by some events.

Chapter One, titled The Hero, is narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, as he tries to introduce the protagonist, a gay man named Henry, as he is talking to his therapist, Dr. Cait Morris (Annette Bening, who also appeared in Danny Collins). Sam find Henry’s story uninteresting, and so the focus shifts to Cait.

We don’t get Cait’s story either, because walking down the street, she meets Will Dempsey (Oscar Isaac), who flatters her before being hit by a bus. This, it turns out, is part of an “unreliable Jackson narrator” script that Will is working on in real life, and another narrator continues the story.  Will then goes to a therapy session with Cait (who’s not dead, after all), a routine ever since his wife Abby (Olivia Wilde) left him.

The film world premiered at the 2018 Toronto Film Fest, and was released on September 21, 2018, by Amazon Studios.

Dismissed by most critics, the film even failed to recoup its modest budget.