I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into when I sat down to watch New Life. The tagline on the DVD says, “Where there is love, there is life.” It sounds catchy but it doesn’t make 100% sense to me. I love my wife, she is alive. Love – life. I love my fat cat, she is alive. Love – life. I love M&Ms, Star Wars movies, Seinfeld, playing NES games. That’s love but is that life? Or is that just enjoying something that you love. I dunno…I thinking too far into it. I also think that the movie is trying to be deep…which is exactly what it tries to go for the entire film.
The movie is about two seven-year-olds who meet, become friends, become adults, fall in love, and get married. It’s a movie plot, right? I mean people marry their high school sweethearts, I guess. Lots of people meet their spouses at college. But at age 7? I was really cool with Tina Kozak but it is hard to imagine us married today because we were in the same class and loved playing Commodore 64.
It’s not that I can’t relate to the movie but this movie just pours it on. It is like a Screenwriting 101 script that some freshman poured their heart into and then they made it into a film. Now I don’t want to seem like I’m putting the FOUR screenwriters down (including star Erin Bethea). But man they lay it on pretty thick.
There’s going to be minor spoilers in this review. It’s not something I normally do but I feel I can’t just do my usual “throw some plot points out there” kind of review.
At first I thought this film to be a romance. And I didn’t think it was particularly good. We meet the kids (briefly), we see them as teens (briefly), and then we meet Ben (Jonathan Patrick Moore) and Ava (Erin Bethea) as they are just reaching adulthood. Ben is working for his father as an intern AND driving a limo to make ends meet while Ava is off at school. Ben is always working, gets blown off when he calls her, and then drives the two hours to see her and gets…attitude. Everything is his fault. He doesn’t make the time. He promises…but she feels like everything is unfair to her. Dude is working two jobs. I understand if you are dating someone you make the time but he throws it out there that she doesn’t make the two hour drive. Good point dude. I was like, “Well maybe she doesn’t have a car. Maybe she doesn’t want to take the bus!” Fair enough. I had a girlfriend who went to school in Maryland and she didn’t have a car. So I would hop in the ride and drive from Jersey to Terrapin country. But Ava? Just a few minutes later they show her getting into her car. NICE.
Eventually they get over the hump and decide to get married. She becomes a second grade teacher, he goes to work for his father. Ben works hard. Ava feels Ben isn’t home enough. I’m looking around this house (or this set that they were on…but it looked like an actual house) and I’m thinking to myself, “No way she is paying for THIS HOUSE on just a grade school teacher’s salary.” They have a great house, dude is working way hard, and once again Ava starts griping. “The way to a better life is to do it together,” she states. Once again dude is just trying to work hard. It just feels unrealistic. Why? Most people go to work. Most people have spouses that work. Some may have different hours. Some may work longer. Have longer commutes. My wife commutes an hour each way to work and she works some long days. Am I going to then blast her for “not having time for me?” If she gets home after a long day and wants two hours to herself before bed am I going to look at her and say, “The way to a better life is to do it together.”??!?!? The thing is life isn’t easy. The movie ultimately is about not having enough time. But at this point in their lives work is work. I wish I had all the time in the world with my life but I’m not going to nag the crap out of her and be realllllllllllllllly whiny like Ava is.
The movie then has a turn and then another turn. Suddenly this romance movie is really a by-the-numbers tale of a couple who gets everything thrown at them, tragedy after tragedy. There’s miscarriages. There’s cancer. And ultimately it is about the love you have for someone and having the power to both go through it. Again – it becomes about time and how valuable time really is. They really are able to beat you over the head with that point.
I won’t continue to divulge the plot but I was actually surprised at the third act. So at least the movie surprised me.
The big problem for me was the movie is basically about Ava and Ben – the two main characters. There’s some other ancillary characters that come into the picture but you never really get to know them nor care. The French roommate in college. The guy who seems like the best friend at the limo company who disappears. The parents who we BARELY get to know nor see their pain. The movie rests on Erin Bethea and Jonathan Patrick Moore. Now Moore gives a good performance and he plays a guy who is just always willing to bend for his wife. He’s likable because of this. Bethea’s character can just seem selfish and when tragedy strikes I feel bad for her but I spent most of the first act not really caring for her character. And Bethea CO-WROTE the movie…this is her film…this is the story she wanted to tell.
Any real good in this movie? Well Lost’s Terry O’Quinn shows up as a doctor at the hospital. He’s a great get and a fine actor. While his role isn’t huge he uses those thirty years of acting experience and puts his all into the performance. He didn’t disappoint.
Bill Cobbs plays…I think he was a neighbor…who helps Ben along. I don’t know Bill Cobbs by name but when I saw him I’m like, “DUDE! It’s the guy who killed Nino Brown in New Jack City!” It was good to see him in the movie but, once again, he’s a guy with zero character development. They needed a character to do (A) so they wrote someone in to do so.
I’ve never sat around watching a Hallmark Film but this …sort of feels like something that would be a Hallmark Film. Now don’t be reading this review and be like, “Ryan – why are you hating on romantic dramas!?! Just because it’s not some nerd movie doesn’t mean it’s bad!” Look – I can appreciate a damn good nerd film. I can also appreciated a damn good romance film. My massive DVD/Blu-ray collection is proof of the many films I’ve watched that I’ve appreciated and sometimes loved. This film just tried to stuff it ALL into the film while not developing the characters and trying to beat you over the head with how short life is.
So I just bitched a lot about New Life but at the end of the day is it a bad film? No. No it’s not. And I’m sure there’s many people out there who will really like this film. Just because I had problems with one of the main characters that caused a disconnection doesn’t really mean that everyone will feel like that.
AND…no offense to Kelsey Formost…who I’ve seen in other stuff like Modern Family…but she does this really bad French accent. Really bad. It sounds like the bad French accent you would only hear in a bad film. She doesn’t pull it off. She certainly did not come off like Audrey Tautou or Marion Cotillard. Hell – she didn’t even come off anywhere near as good as Diane Franklin pulled off in Better Off Dead. That was a good American teen pulling off a fake French accent.
Overall I didn’t like this film. Too forced. For a romance I didn’t really feel the chemistry.
As for Special Features they had some stuff that, left in, wouldn’t have really added to the picture so it was fine taking out. Maybe they could have left the stuff in when they were real little kids so you got a better feeling of how their relationship started…??? There’s some featurettes about the film where the actors and writer/director Drew Waters talk about this deep emotional journey you are going to feel in watching the film. As I didn’t like the film and didn’t feel the connection these featurettes were just ho-hum. I was interested in seeing how the trailer for this movie was…but the DVD didn’t actually include a trailer on it. Lastly there’s director commentary along with Erin Bethea but as I’m not a commentary guy I didn’t listen. And I’m sure the commentary talks at length about the emotional journey they were trying to portray on-screen. No thanks.
If you are into sappy Hallmark Films that sorta kinda have a happy ending then I guess this may be for you. Me? I’ll take The Notebook, Love Actually, Sleepless in Seattle, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About Time, You’ve Got Mail, and so many other films that just pull it off better.
SPECIAL FEATURES: C