A Life Less Ordinary

1997

A Life Less Ordinary

Critics Consensus

A Life Less Ordinary has an intriguing cast and stylish work from director Danny Boyle, but they're not enough to overcome the story's fatally misjudged tonal mishmash.

39%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 36

59%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 54,736
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Movie Info

The acclaimed Trainspotting trio (director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, scripter John Hodge) reunited for this update of '30s screwball comedies and '40s fantasies, such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan(1941), Angel on My Shoulder(1946), Down to Earth(1947), and the 1946 Stairway to Heaven (co-directed by Macdonald's grandfather, Emeric Pressburger). Tossed together for $12 million, the result is a combination salad, a surreal salmagundi with an added animated sequence for lagniappe. In Heaven, Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) sends angels O'Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) down to Earth to make two people fall in love. If the angels fail, they must remain on Earth. The target couple: well-to-do Celine (Cameron Diaz) and impoverished, aspiring novelist Robert (Ewan McGregor), a janitor at the corporation owned by her wealthy father, Naville (Ian Holm). Robert loses his job, kidnaps Celine, and the two retreat to a mountain hideout where they discuss splitting the ransom. O'Reilly and Jackson plan to make Robert and Celine love each other by putting them in jeopardy, so the two angels get hired on by Naville as bounty hunters. Although Robert and Celine argue, they also sing and dance together at a local karaoke bar, a scene evocative of both Dennis Potter's Karaoke and the memorable karaoke performance by Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend's Wedding. The angels make few gains, but when Jackson is on the brink of killing Robert, Celine comes to his rescue. Naville cancels Celine's credit card, so she robs a bank. Robert is shot during the robbery, and Celine has dentist Elliot (Stanley Tucci) remove the bullet. Robert awakens, finds the two together, and knocks out Elliot, prompting an argument that leads Celine and Robert to separate. Plagued by their own problems, the angels kidnap Celine themselves, and as complications mount, Gabriel eventually has God intervene. Filmed in Utah, although Hodge originally planned the story to take place in France and England. ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for A Life Less Ordinary

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (14) | Rotten (22)

Audience Reviews for A Life Less Ordinary

  • Feb 16, 2017
    From director Danny Boyle comes the rather bizarre romantic comedy A Life Less Ordinary. The story follows the spoiled daughter of a rich businessman who is kidnapped by a recently fired janitor, and the two then team-up in order to extort a ransom from her father and begin to fall in love; but unknown to them events are being manipulated by two angels. Cameron Diaz gives a good performance and has a lot of charisma, but Ewan McGregor is terrible and two have no chemistry. Additionally, the comedy is pretty weak, featuring stale jokes and cheap slapstick. A mess of a film that's all over the place, A Life Less Ordinary just doesn't work.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 13, 2013
    Not charming enough to completely make its celestial plot work and a roughly hewn script in general, Boyle's 'A Life Less Ordinary' is still helped along by a good performance from McGregor and an original idea of a film, even if it's not completely executed well.
    Kase V Super Reviewer
  • Sep 20, 2012
    I like the film just fine, but how bad do the reviews on your film have to be for your cinematographer to stop hanging out with you? No, I seriously doubt that Brian Tufano broke his relationship with Danny Boyle over this film's bad reviews, partially because Tufano doesn't have too many more people to work with other than Boyle, but this film was pretty much the beginning of the end for Boyle and his group of friends. Lord knows Ewan McGregor wasn't going to stick around after this, which is a shame - seeing as how he and Boyle made a good team - and a bit ironic, seeing as how the films McGregor and Boyle did together were about losing friends. In "Shallow Grave", friendships died over murder and in "Trainspotting", friendships died over drug addiction, but in the film business, nothing kills friendships quite like bad movies. Granted, again, I like this film just fine, but make no mistake, this does stand to be "a film less cheesy". Ouch, sounds like that joke stands to be "a joke less cheesy". Either way, the point is that this film is a generally enjoyable one, or at least to me, yet it goes held back by oh so much. There's one point in the film in which Ewan McGregor's Robert Lewis character says during a bank robbery that you can see a clip of in the trailer, "I thought we agreed no cliches", which is ironic, for although this film isn't quite as cliched as I had feared, it plummets into more than a few of the tropes found within films of this type, so much so that it's pretty easy to predict the outcome to this film, and that lands a heavy blow to the final product, yet the writing faults don't end there, because even with his reasonably strong writing in preceding Danny Boyle films, John Hodge often delvers on surprisingly underwhelming dialogue that fails to sparkle, and sometimes even gets to be a bit weak, or rather, a touch cheesy. Being about as much a dark comedy as a romantic comedy, the film isn't quite as cheesy as you would expect, yet at the same time, Hodge slips up more than you'd expect when it comes to avoiding more than a few cheesy occasions, which are, like many other faults in the script, made worse by the characters, almost all of whom feel exaggerated to one degree or another, with some - particularly, of all people, our leads - feeling obnoxious to the point of almost being unlikable, and decidedly to the point of being barely compelling. Of course, when you get down to it, what might be the biggest problem with Hodge's script is that the story it's built around is rather bland, with a limited sense of consequence and bite, made all the worse by bumpy flow in the structure of such a story, which sometimes slapdashes exposition, sometimes collapses into tonal unevenness, falls into story unevenness on more than a few occasions and often plummets to unsubtlety to make the final product even more predictable. Basically, the problem with Hodge's story structure is that it suffers from a kind of "and then" type of flow, in that it slam-bangs everything together with little grace, little evenness and little spark, thus making for a script that may not be as bad as I make it sound, let alone as bad as others make it sound, yet seriously needs to be executed well. Considering that we're talking about Danny Boyle as director here, I would expect just that, yet to my surprise, in the long run, Boyle's direction feels relatively under-inspired. I say relatively because it's pretty darn hard to make Danny Boyle look bad, and sure enough, what Danny Boyle hits he hits hard enough to keep you, or at least me, going, yet on the whole, Boyle doesn't quite put as much heart as he should into this project to give it some kick, and with Hodge's aforementioned faults restraining that kick further, all of the conventions, cheesiness, predictability, spotty characterization, unevenness and, of course, faulty structuring of an underwhelming story to come in loud and clear, and leave the final product to come out consistently bland and ultimately "a film less rewarding"... than other Danny Boyle films. That being said, this film still isn't quite as faulty as many claim it to be, for although John Hodge stands to hit harder in the writing department, while Danny Boyle stands to bite more firmly in the storytelling department, what Boyle and his boys do well goes done well enough for your investment, or at least your eye for style, to go sustained. With this film, I reckon most every one of Boyle's buddies from the days of "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting" are turning in "efforts less inspired" (Get it?), as Brian Tufano's photography isn't quite as slick as it usually is, yet remains reasonably sharp, nevertheless, boasting its usual handsomely detailed definition, as well as occasions in which it does deliver on slick shots that catch your eyes and liven things up, much like Masahiro Hirakubo's once again cleverly snappy editing. Boyle's distinct style remains strong, as the people who help in establishing it remain strong in their work, even if they don't deliver quite as much as they did with "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting", while Boyle's musical tastes and stylistic touches also hit, though most certainly not as much as usual. Danny Boyle's taste in music is hit-or-miss, sometimes being too poppy for its own good, and that especially goes for this film, which has plenty of good old fashion tracks that are decent, if not pretty good, yet generally delivers music that is overbearingly poppy, if not just plain pretty weak, or even bad, with David Arnold's sometimes overbearingly poppy score not helping in the least, thus making for one of Boyle's weaker soundtracks, which is made all the more detrimental to the film by Boyle's actually slipping up a bit on what he usually does so well: blending the music into the context of the film well. Boyle sometimes overemphasizes the music, and its style with it, to the point of drowning out substance, which is a mistake I would expect him to know better than to make, as he almost always knows how to work well with music in the context of a film, even when the music is too much, which is why, with this film, for every moment in which Boyle slips up in his bonding musical style with substance, there is a moment in which he, in fact, does what he typically does and bonds musical style with substance with general smooth effectiveness, certainly not as much as he always does, but still just enough to keep the film just as, if not more lively than overbearing with its soundtrack control. Of course, as always, working more often than not fairly well with the soundtrack - weak though, it may sometimes be - isn't the only thing that Boyle does right with this film, for although his storytelling isn't as inspired as it should be, let alone as inspired as it usually is, when Boyle hits with this film, he hits reasonably hard and wakes you up, sparking into the film his usual kind of livliness, which may rarely be enough to drown out the many mistakes in John Hodge's screenplay, yet remains enough to firmly pronounce the undeniable high points in Hodge's screenplay, while gracing the film with a lively atmosphere that sparks enough entertainment value to keep you sticking with things, even when they're at their stickiest. Boyle's efforts in lifting this film past its many mistakes to an enjoyable state go supported by the leads, both of whom are presented rather obnoxious, sometimes exaggerated and altogether messily structured characters, yet work past that about as well as you would expect them to, for although this film definately doesn't present Ewan McGregor the material to act his skinny, white, Scottish bum off, come on, it's still Ewan McGregor, so of course he's sparklingly charming, and well matched by the just as charming lovely leading lady Cameron Diaz. These leads' chemistry goes hurt by the faultiness in the writing and the under-inspiration in Boyle's direction, yet still reasonably cuts through, as McGregor and Diaz are both colorful enough to earn your investment in them, both as a charming pair and as charming individuals, and with that color going backed up by the high points in Boyle's style and direction, the final product comes out through all of its many missteps and shortcomings to ultimately stand as, if nothing else, entertaining. Bottom line, John Hodge's screenplay is a mess, going tainted by many a story convention, as well as cheesy spots, faulty characterization and quite a few farfetched aspects, while going hurt the most by slam-bang structure around a bland story, made all the more bland by the aforementioned conventions, cheesiness and faulty characterization, as well as by spotty exposition, unevenness and even a degree of under-inspiration in Danny Boyle's direction, thus making for what it is quite decidedly the weakest Danny Boyle effort yet, but one that still manages to stand as reasonably enjoyable, going partly saved by Boyle's fine style - complete with Masahiro Hirakubo's typically snappy editing and Brian Tufano's final fine acts in photography direction for a Boyle film - and the inspired moments in Boyle's direction that liven things up more often than not, especially when backed up by the colorful charisma and reasonably effective chemistry between Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz that help in making "A Life Less Ordinary" an entertaining piece of fluffy Boyle filler, even with its many, many shortcomings that make its weak reception undeniable reasonable. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2010
    Complete & utter crap.
    Cassie H Super Reviewer

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