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Cinema in Focus: ‘Life As We Know It’

Tale explores the notion of opposites attract with romance and laughter

2 Stars — Entertaining

Two themes interplay in Greg Berlanti’s comedy Life As We Know It. The first, as the title implies, is that life can take unpredictable turns — especially when an event occurs that is so impactful that even your own life becomes suddenly unfamiliar. The second theme is that shared life in a family trumps the single life.

Similar to such films as The Family Man, the message is clearly presented that even the smoothest operators desire a family, and that even the most independent among us wants to belong.

The tale told by writers Ian Deitchman and Kristin Rusk Robinson is unlikely but intriguing.

It begins with a happily married couple who give birth to a precious daughter, Sophie (played by three sisters — Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett). The father’s best friend, Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel), and the mother’s best friend, Holly Berenson (Katherine Heigl), can’t stand each other. But when an accident kills the couple, Eric and Holly discover that their will gives Sophie to both of them as guardians. This shared responsibility begins a humorous and conflicted partnership as they reluctantly move into the couple’s house to care for this precious 1-year-old child.

Though the tale is predictable, it reveals the deeper side of life. Although some may disagree, life is meant to be shared in relationship. When we have no one to care for or no one who cares for us, we often fill our days hooking up in temporary and superficial ways. Or we throw ourselves into work and only fantasize about possible romance.

These are the two responses of Eric and Holly. As a player, Eric is the opposite of who Holly wants to date. And as a fearful, controlling person, Holly is not who Eric wants to date. But when they get beneath their superficial differences, they finally realize what their friends saw when they hooked them up on a blind date: They are made for each other.

They ultimately see that they are made to be a family and care for Sophie as their daughter.

Filled with moments of self-discovery, one of the most remarkable occurs when Holly tries to teach Sophie to say her name. When Sophie spontaneously calls her “mama,” it suddenly dawns on Holly that she has become “mama” to this little girl.

Only the second film that veteran writer and producer Berlanti has directed, he has chosen to make both romantic comedies. As he develops his skill in this genre, we look forward to other works to come.

Discussion:

» 1. On their aborted first date, Holly and Eric repel each other. Do you believe that many couples who don’t hit it off at first are really suited for each other? On what evidence do you base your answer?

» 2. The decision to leave their daughter to their two best friends who hated each other set the stage for either a romantic or tragic ending. How do you think this story would play out as a tragedy?

» 3. When children enter a person’s life, their goals of necessity are rearranged. Do you think this is good or bad? Why?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

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