Monday, September 28, 2009

A BEAUTIFUL LIFE -- ironic title -- makes its tardy theatrical debut

Once in a while a film comes along that leaves TrustMovies questioning why certain small indepen-
dent endeavors ever see the light of day.
A BEAUTIFUL LIFE is one such: a project so full of cliché that you worry perhaps the filmmaker had never before seen a movie prior to making his own, or worse, has simply cribbed everything in his film -- idea, plot, characters, dialog and photogra-
phy -- from other recent examples. He simply tosses them all into his pot, lights a fire under it and stirs occasionally. No special ingredients, nothing remotely spicy or unusual. The result, if you are a virgin to the movie-going experience, might be edible. For cineastes, however, it's going to seem bland and utterly generic.

Using this sort of monkey-see-monkey-do recipe, even the cliches become lumped together and sometimes lose their identity. Instead of the hooker with a heart of gold, we have a stripper/exotic dancer whose organ has received the Midas Touch. There's also a home-
less waif with a big secret who ends up living with the macho Latino illegal, a guy who just needs a little affection and, uh, papers. We have drugs, we have sex, but we don't have much rock-n-roll. And as for that big secret, it is revealed oh-so-slowly via sudden mem-
ory jogs, done with -- you guessed it -- overlit, flashing, soft-focus moments that have now gone past de rigeur into out-and-out visual water-boarding. You will have guessed what our heroine's past has entailed within probably the first flashback, which means the remaining numerous "hints" simply increase the torture.

With dialog of the write-it-as-you-go-
along variety -- which the cast delivers as well as anyone could -- this movie disproves the old saw about an actor being so good that you could listen to him or her read the phone book. A Beautiful Life is the phone book, and pity the poor pro-
fessionals such as Dana Delany, Debi Mazar, Jesse Garcia (above), Bai Ling (at right) and Rena Owen trapped into reading it. As for Angela Sarafyan -- shown below (no, that is not a disembodied head perched atop her torso but maybe a poorly planned and executed "still"), who has the lead role of Maggie -- the actress possesses a good deal of beauty and the necessary quota of vulnerability, all wasted here. The film's direction is by Alejandro Chomski and the screenplay and adaptation is by Wendy Hammond (from her play) and Deborah Calla -- each of whom we hope will be shown to better effect by their next offering.

A Beautiful Life (you will "get" the irony in that title, believe me) opening this Friday, October 2, at the following theaters:
New York City – Quad Cinema
Los Angeles – Sunset 5
San Francisco – Landmark Lumiere
Chicago – AMC Piper’s Alley

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