First Night Flicks: Life As We Know It

Life As We Know It (2010)

Directed by: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel, Josh Lucas
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and some drug content

It’s hard out there for a first-time parent. Every other parent on  your block has advice for you, some of it conflicting. You never know if you’re doing the right thing. You realize that the little things you once took for granted, like a soothing bath at the end of a hard day, are damn-near impossible to come by. This is not material unworthy of exploration in film. People like to see themselves portrayed in entertainment, if only to be able to see that they are not alone in their experiences.

The problems for first time parents Holly (Heigl) and Messer (Duhamel) are multiplied by the fact that they inherited the child from their best friends Peter and Allison (Hayes MacArthur, Christina Hendricks) after they are killed in a car accident shortly after their daughter’s first birthday. Also, Holly and Messer can’t stand one another, thanks to a disastrous first date that opens the film, which is where my problems with the film start.

The opening scene of the film presents us with two characters straight out of cliche hell. They’re set up by their respective best friends. He’s an hour late, doesn’t notice that she’s not dressed to get on the back of his motorcycle and didn’t make the reservation he said he would. She sat and home and waited for him to get there, tried to pretend it didn’t bother her that he was late and displays impressive skill at double-speak. It plays into every nightmare blind date stereotype available. Mercifully, they never even bother to go on the date, so we’re at least spared the awkward conversation and lame, probably one-sided attempt at a hook up. This whole debacle begins with the on-the-nose Amy Winehouse track “You Know I’m No Good” and ends with the dreadful line, “The only way you can make this up to me is if you promise me I never have to see him again.” The line is dreadful because both the audience and the characters know this is not possible.

The film also asks the audience to buy the ridiculous idea that Peter and Allison would have the foresight to draw up a will and name a guardian for their daughter but not talk to those they have chosen for such an enormous responsibility. Granted, it is stated at an early point in the film that Holly and Messer are Sophie’s godparents. In a lot of cultures, it is understood that this is tantamount to being the de facto guardian in case of the parents’ death, but I can accept the possibility that this might not be the case for everyone. However, it strains my suspension of disbelief that anyone would name a guardian for their child without asking the prospective guardian first.

The film is not helped by the fact that it follows just about every tired romantic comedy trope in existence and is filled with idealized stock characters out of central casting. There’s the gorgeous doctor (Lucas) that Holly is attracted to, but can’t connect with because of her friends’ untimely death. Want to take bets on where she’ll see him again? How about the eager social worker (Sarah Burns) who apparently has no problem giving her “easy” cases time to tidy up before entering for her surprise visits? Will she notice that one of the characters is drunk during their first meeting?

If you enjoy predictable romantic comedies that you can just turn your brain off and not think about anything while watching other than how pretty everyone on  screen is, I might still urge you to skip this film. It’s not poorly acted; it’s well filmed, but it leaves too many holes for the viewer to fill in and doesn’t reward the viewer in any interesting way.

If you do somehow allow yourself to get dragged to Life As We Know It, here’s my official prescription for how to get through it. Just repeat the following mantra in your head: “Josh Dumahel is really pretty.” Works for men and women.