"Either way it's okay, you wake up with yourself..." I can't hear that title without getting the Billy Joel song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot, Patrick. Read Judge Patrick "I Prefer Elton John" Naugle's review of this Michael Keaton / Nicole Kidman weepie.
Every moment counts.
After his last stint at playing Batman, Michael Keaton made a dramatic turn as a dying cancer patient in the Jerry Zucker (Ghost, Airplane!) produced My Life. A soft hit at the box office, My Life showed off Keaton's skills as a dramatic actor while keeping intact his finely honed comedic timing. Also starring Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm, Batman Forever), My Life shows signs of life in DVD from Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
Facts of the Case
Bob Jones (Keaton) seems to have it all. He has a successful career, a beautiful and loving wife (Kidman), and a newborn baby on the way. Bob is living the American dream to the fullest…until he finds out that he has cancer. How long does he have to live? Not long at all, and this is what prompts him to start making a video diary of his life for his unborn child.
Bob's idea is for the video to show his child what his father's life was like, and who he was. Through this video, Bob is able to reach beyond his years and share with his child some life lessons and family history that he would normally miss out on because of his death.
At the same time, Bob is searching for a cure for his cancer. Hope is the only thing he has, and with his wife Gail by his side he seeks out treatment and regular hospitals, as well as alternative medicine through an Asian healer (Haing S. Ngor).
Bob soon discovers that the cancer is quickly spreading, and taking the advice of the Asian healer he tries to make peace with his wife, with his family, and most importantly, with himself (both in the present and in flashbacks to his childhood). What follows is an unexpected journey into his own heart for the true meaning of life: the gift of love.
When you strip the facts away, My Life is at its core a quality tearjerker. Normally I am not in much of a mood for downer films, as I find life has enough troubles to offer me and am usually not in the mood to have another person to feel bad for. I thought that My Life would be just a typical "I have cancer" film. I was wrong. My Life is looking for more than just a way to make you cry; it's looking for a way to make you think.
The character of Bob Jones is easily the personification of many of us. We think we have everything we want or need. It may be in the form of material possessions, or maybe in sex, alcohol, or work. We find that this is our way of life and, whether it's going to destroy us or not, it's what keeps us going. Things such as family, friendships or unconditional love are kept on the back burner.
As Bob comes to the realization that he is going to die, he finds that all the things he once thought he needed are shifted aside. Now all that remains is love. My Life takes these scenes and gives them an extra boost of emotion. During the film, Bob becomes withdrawn and angry. Gail tells him to love her and his unborn baby; she needs him and can't go though this alone. If only we all took heed of these words with our own families. In another poignant scene, Bob is too weak to even shave, and his father takes over the duty for him. How heartbreaking yet bittersweet it is to see a father care for his grown son like this. My Life is filled with these kinds of reminders. Love what you have, always.
My Life is filled with wonderful performances by Keaton and Kidman. Keaton shows why he is such a wonderful actor. Through his cancer he doesn't lose his sense of humor, but often loses his will to love. Bob's struggle is to overcome the disease that is taking his body, but not let it strip him of his spirit. Kidman (who I am not always a fan of in most movies) plays off Keaton well. She sees his spiral in the disease but stands by him with strength and dignity. The supporting cast is equally as good, including Bradley Whitford ("The West Wing") as bob's brother and Queen Latifah as Bob's hospice caretaker.
Though the story for My Life isn't all that original, it makes up for this in its writing. Writer/director Bruce Joel Rubin seemingly knows the ins and outs of cancer and the gambit of emotions one experiences as a patient. The script does have its moments of pulling punches on its audience (or pulling at the tear ducts at the right time), but overall it's a well-scripted film. The idea of a father taping his life and lessons for his unborn child adds even more depth to the proceedings. The whole thing is enhanced by John Barry's (Dances With Wolves) lush underscore.
My Life is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture is excellent with colors looking bright and soft (when needed) and blacks being dark and solid. There was no digital artifacting present, or edge enhancement. There are a few soft shots now and then, but nothing major. Columbia has done a fine job with this title; it looks crisp and bright.
Audio is a Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation and is fine for the type of movie it is. Since this is a drama, your sound system will not be getting its usual workout if you were playing, oh, say Charlie's Angels. Bass was deep and resonant, and the dialogue was clear of hiss or distortion (as is most important in a three hankie drama such as this). John Barry's score is usually brought up front, which is a very good thing (I can easily recommend the soundtrack CD to this film as well). A decent, albeit limited, mix by Columbia.
My Life includes only a small collection of extras, namely a few full frame trailers (My Life, The Deep End Of The Ocean, Philadelphia), and some talent files.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
My Life is a very uplifting film, and as hard as I have tried I can't think of anything really off about this film. Yes, it does get a bit sappy towards the end (a storyline about Bob's childhood desire for a backyard circus is cute, though borders on silly), but this is a film that will hopefully make you think about your own mortality. To tweak an old saying, "he who dies with the most love wins."
At around $15-20 or so, My Life is an excellent addition to your collection. Though I am not sure how much repeat viewing this will get, it's certainly a good movie filled with extraordinary performances. Michael Keaton has never been better (okay, well, maybe in Beetlejuice, but that's it), and Nicole Kidman actually gives an emotional performance.
Innocent! A movie that everyone should see, then go and find a family member and give them a big hug. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
• Theatrical Trailer
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