A Life Less Ordinary
directed by Danny Boyle
(20th Century Fox, 1997)

Ewan McGregor turned the film world upside down with his portrait of hardboiled heroin addict "Rents" Renton in Trainspotting, while Cameron Diaz is best known as the bride that almost wasn't to be in last summer's lighter-than-air outing My Best Friend's Wedding. That would seem to make them a most unlikely pair, but then most-unlikely-pairs are what A Life Less Ordinary is all about.

It begins with yet another unlikely pair, Jackson and O'Reilly, two angels being threatened with banishment to earth if they can't improve their success rate. Their mission: to see that Robert (McGregor) and Celine (Cameron Diaz) fall in love, stay in love and marry happily ever after.

That's no easy task, given that Robert is a janitor who's just lost his job in Celine's father's firm. And if Robert hadn't barged into her father's office to demand his job back at the very same moment Celine's father was scolding her for breaking up with her latest beau ("Do you know how hard it is to find a good man in this town, much less a good dentist?"), they'd never have met.

Fortunately, they do meet, and if they don't fall in love, they do leave the office together, albeit at gunpoint. Unfortunately, that's about as far as director Danny Boyle, also of Trainspotting fame, gets before this film bogs down in a number of predictable routines.

The first of these, if you haven't already guessed, is role reversal. It seems Robert is not only an unlikely kidnapper, he's an incompetent one. So it isn't long before Celine takes charge: upping the ransom amount, coaching Robert through the kidnap call and, finally, making the call herself. That might have worked if Boyle had done it quickly and moved on, but he clings to it, milking it for every variation he can devise, thus spreading the few laughs he gets over too little film.

Also working against A Life Less Ordinary is an over-the-top performance by Holly Hunter as angel O'Reilly. Her every gesture is exaggerated and her lines delivered as if they were cannon fire. Needless to say, emphasizing a weak script does not make it better.

To his credit, Boyle has made no attempt to revisit his earlier triumph: This is no Trainspotting II. The characters are much more sympathetic, even when they're pointing guns at people. That's especially true of Robert, a working guy whose big dream in life is to become a trash novelist.

Moreover, Boyle devises some memorable routines, as when Celine's cover story unintentionally launches Robert on a brief but colorful career as a country and western singer. That's a keeper, even if, like almost everything else in the film, it drags on too long.

Still, you can't make A Life Less Ordinary out of a script too predictable. Unfortunately, Boyle did.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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