Life Itself Review: 2 Ups & 8 Downs

This Melodramatic Bore Is Unbelievably Bad...

Life Itself Movie
Amazon Studios

Life Itself is the new theatrical release from screenwriter and creator of the emotional TV show This Is Us, Dan Fogelman. Considering his award-winning credentials, the buzz surrounding him as a creator right now, and the all-star cast he assembled for the film, many were pegging it as a possible (if unlikely) contender for this year's Academy Awards.

Until they actually saw the film, that is.

Upon release, the film was savaged by audiences and critics alike. Widely derided as an over-the-top attempt at crafting an emotional tear-jerker, the film's box office has been affected pretty drastically, with it being Fogelman's first flop in every regard.

But is Life Itself as bad as everyone says it is? Let's find out.


8. The Opening Sequence

Life Itself Set
Amazon Studios

To say that the film gets off to a wobbly start would be an understatement. Fogelman kicks the film off with what will come to be one of the film's most distinct calling cards; misguided misdirection.

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the opening sequence takes great joy in purposefully confusing the viewer, focusing on several different people as possible protagonists before finally settling on Annette Benning's Dr. Cate Morris. Shortly after Samuel L. Jackson's narration tells us that she's the definite protagonist, she gets hit by a bus and dies. It is then that Samuel L. appears in-the-flesh and states that this movie is too crazy for him and he leaves the film.

This is all later retconned into being the beginning of a screenplay Oscar Issac's Will has been attempting to write, but that doesn't make it any better. Not only is it a nonsensical opening that has practically no bearing on the rest of the film, but it is also so condescendingly smug it is unbearable. Through Samuel L. Jackson's narration, Fogelman practically spends the entire sequence patting himself on the back for coming up with such an opener in the first place.

It is blindingly obvious through the form (chapter introductions, nonlinear storytelling, Samuel L. Jackson as a narrator) and later narrative references (Will and Abby love Pulp Fiction) that this is supposed to be an attempt at a Tarantino-esque voice in the writing style, but even Tarantino has never written a sequence this obsessed with itself.


A film enthusiast and writer, who'll explain to you why Jingle All The Way is a classic any day of the week.