Life Itself.

Life Itself

By Joanna Langfield

Wait: What????

I have seen Dan Fogelman’s talky, mawkish melodrama and I have questions.

As he does on his acclaimed TV series, This is Us, Fogelman plays with time and generations in this much manipulated and manipulative feel-good tragedy. Oscar Issac, who somehow is very impressive amidst the mess, stars as Will, a man madly in love with his gorgeous pregnant wife (Olivia Wilde). Life, itself, is good, but how? Does anyone in this family have a job? Ah, but I digress. Something horrible happens. I won’t give it away. But I will say I haven’t crossed a street without looking more than twice since watching the oft-repeated nightmare. Anyway, we get to meet Will’s parents (Mandy Patinkin, who makes the most of his moment, and Jean Smart), a bruised and beautiful Antonio Banderas, and lots of other people, all of whom, we are told and often shown, are haunted by horrible, horrible stuff. Fun times.

Days later, I still wonder: what’s with this time table? Play along as you might, odd bits will throw you off track, should you try and get your bearings. Which may have something to do with a weird sidetrack about narration, but really, who knows?

And while it’s admirable to present a good portion of the running time in Spanish with subtitles, why, just when we get to the ALL IMPORTANT MESSAGE, do we suddenly get to hear that in English?

Why does the shifting time and generation conceit work on the series and not here? Is such a thing better digested in episodic doses, where we can cry on cue, realize the meaning of life and then grab a snack during a commercial? If that’s true, perhaps this, already divided in chapters, tale will work better when it streams on Amazon. Then, we can break for a breather and a cleansing breath of life, itself.