A melodramatic mess, and a judge fighting for change
Life Itself (15) ★★✩✩✩
THE CENTRAL message of this complex, confusing, multi-character, multi-generational melodrama is based on a character’s undergraduate literary thesis: that life itself is the ultimate unreliable narrator. Written and directed by Dan Fogelman, the creator of Emmy nominated TV series, This is Us, Life Itself is less about life and more about carefully plotted deaths. Tragedy occurs on an unimaginable scale: suicide, terminal illness, numerous accidental road deaths and child molestation — all within a saga where chance events connect strangers across generations and continents.
Structurally divided into five parts, the central focus is young New York couple, Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abbey (Olivia Wilde) and their daughter, Dylan (Olivia Cooke). Suffice to say, traumatic loss occurs on multiple levels and then, suddenly, the meandering story moves to Spain. Here, anoth- er family unit faces difficult challenges and more unfortunate events unfold. But once Rodrigo (Alex Monner), the son, moves to study at NYU, it transpires that one incident links him with another character in an unexpected, albeit rather sentimental, way.
The strong cast, which includes Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas and Mandy Patinkin do their best but are wasted on a weak script and muddled plot. Fogelman should stick to saccharine TV.
RBG (PG) ★★★★✩
SHE MAY be very tiny in stature but this inspiring and affectionate documentary narrates the outsized influence, achievements and legacy of 85-year-old liberal US Supreme Court Justice and unexpected pop cultural icon, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Described by Bill Clinton (who appointed her to the SC in 1993) as a pioneering women’s advocate, directors Julie Cohen and Betsy West explore Ginsburg’s life and work through archival footage, interviews with family, friends and colleagues and Ginsburg herself.
A woman of renowned reserve, Ginsburg’s career has been defined by her fierce intellect as well as a strong determination to use the law as an instrument of change. Her own experience of discrimination would, in many ways, define her work. She became a lawyer in 1950s — a time when few women were encouraged to do so: her gender meant that no New York law firm would give her a job. In 1970s, Ginsburg acted in landmark cases — fighting for equality and challenging gender-based discrimination for both women and men.
At times, the filmmakers take a light-heated approach but this does not detract from their ability to provide a thorough portrait. In addition to charting Ginsburg’s professional contributions, the film affectingly chronicles RBG’s other great love — that of her husband, Marty Ginsburg, also a lawyer, who consistently supported and championed his wife in her career.
Ginsburg’s commitment remains undiminished and she says that she intends to serve until the age of 90. RBG was made prior to Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial nomination and with the Court’s increasing politicisation, for many, her voice and dissenting opinions are of growing importance and her continuing presence essential.
Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde and Mandy Patinkin in Life Itself