Staying Alive...Barely

A cliched drama about waking up to the good things in life.

"Strife, or something like it" would have suited this suds-soaked script better. A film that puts life and living in perspective, this one makes life seem like a well-rehearsed stage show, complete with commonplace clichés and emotive calisthenics.

Lanie Kerrigan (Anjelina Jolie) is your typical scratch-to-silk ideal, having graduated from being a fat, bespectacled nonentity to a glamorous TV reporter with hair the colour of wheat. She claims to have the perfect life, placing a posh apartment, a sports star boyfriend and an enviable job as the necessary yardsticks for happiness.

When she’s informed of her imminent death by a street prophet who claims to pluck prophesies out of thin air, Lanie is suddenly apprehensive, as she finds some of the freak forecasts coming true. With the help of a cameraman called Pete (Edward Burns), she decides to live the last days of her life the way she truly wants to, and she discovers a new love, and ultimately a new life.

Director Stephen Herek has a reputable directorial record with such family winners as "101 Dalmations", "The Mighty Ducks", "The Three Musketeers" and "Mr. Holland’s Opus". However, where failure and then unannounced success mark the motif of his films, he is adept at melding the exact measures of technical and creative formulae. The score, a mix of recent and retired numbers, uplift the most predictable scenes and is largely the selling point of the film, capable of making the audience sing.

A storyline that is as tall as it is slim requires deft handling so that it doesn’t slip into the secondary slot, but while Herek has done a commendable job making this an enjoyable, if not completely convincing movie, Anjelina Jolie comes off as cardboard, even when she’s supposed to be cute. Edward Burns makes the best of his role of a slaphappy cameraman who addresses work as something done in between the holidays. Providing casual relief to a film weighed down by the gravity of life and death and what comes of it, Burns is the kind of guy that deflates everything his partner inflates.

This article was first published on 13 Feb 2003.