February 17, 2009 -- I was talking with a fellow movie fan who happened to be a particular fan of director Danny Boyle. It turned out he had never seen “Millions,” and I had a DVD of that, and I had never seen “A Life Less Ordinary,” and he had a DVD of that, so we made a temporary trade. I hope he liked “Millions” as much as I liked “A Life Less Ordinary.” What a movie! It reminded me a little bit of “Raising Arizona,” only it was a lot funnier, and more gruesome. Boyle, of course, has finally been rediscovered by the public this year with his big hit, and Oscar favorite, Slumdog Millionaire. This is a good time to get reacquainted with this 1997 gem.
This madcap romantic comedy features some of my favorite actors, Holly Hunter (who is also in “Raising Arizona”), Dan Hedaya and Tony Shalhoub. I also like Danny Boyle's movies, at least the ones I've seen so far. Maybe that's why that other Laramie Danny Boyle fan and I really like this film, when most critics don't. The plot revolves around a couple of inept angels, O'Reilly (played by Holly Hunter of “Thirteen”) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo of “Sahara”), who are given orders by their superior, Gabriel (Dan Hedaya of “Strangers With Candy”) to make two people fall in love, or lose their place in heaven.
The two people they are assigned to match are a very mismatched pair, an angry, out-of-work janitor who has lost his job to a robot, Robert Lewis (Ewan McGregor of the “Star Wars” movies) and the spoiled, irresponsible daughter of a rich man, Celine Naville (Cameron Diaz of “In Her Shoes”). Celine's father (Ian Holm of “The Aviator”) is a strange, frightening fellow. When Celine was kidnapped as a child, it took him a long time to work up the enthusiasm to pay off her ransom. When Lewis kidnaps her out of his office, after shooting him (for replacing Robert with a robot), Mr. Naville is a lot more interested in revenge than in his daughter's safe return.
Celine is in no danger from the inept kidnapper. She quickly takes over the situation and decides the kidnapping is a good opportunity for her to get more money out of her father. She's been kidnapped before, and she knows how much money her father has, so she engineers the money drop. The two angels have also gotten involved in the kidnapping. They arrange things to keep Celine and Robert together longer, putting them in jeopardy so they will fall in love. Everyone's plans go awry. There are a lot of strange and interesting characters in this movie, including Celine's ex-husband Elliot Zweikel (Stanley Tucci of “The Hoax”) who is asked to do emergency surgery on Robert, and agrees to do so, even though Celine recently shot him in the head as a lark. The always-interesting Maury Chaykin plays Tod Johnson, a barely hinged neighbor, who lives near a hideout cabin used by Robert and Celine.
The film is whimsical, despite some bloody shootouts. There is a rousing song and dance performance by Robert and Celine that foreshadows McGreggor's successful song and dance performances in “Moulin Rouge.” There is also a cute stop action animation sequence at the end of the film which shows what happens to Robert and Celine after the main part of the movie ends. This film combines romance, comedy, the supernatural, violence, whimsy and music in a unique way. While the romance never really works, the rest of it sure does. Perhaps it would have been more popular with critics had it followed “Millions,” rather than “Trainspotting.” Critics greatly prefer tragedy over romantic comedy. Doubtless it was not what Danny Boyle fans were expecting, but then who could ever expect a movie like this? It is one of a kind. It rates a B+.
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