In my search for films by one of my favourite directors, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, and 127 Hours), I came across A Life Less Ordinary. It is the third film he ever directed and features Danny Boyle regular Ewan McGregor.
Ewan McGregor plays Robert Lewis, a man who is fired from his custodial job because he dreams of a better future and a robot can do his job for less. He ends up kidnapping his boss’s spoiled daughter. Cameron Diaz plays the daughter, Celine Naville. Robert’s innocent nature betrays him in this endeavour, but Celine is there to teach him how to be a professional kidnapper.
The film has a bookend plot with celestial beings being sent to aide in a romance. Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo play angels O’Reilly and Jackson, respectively. During the course of the film, they take on the role of bounty hunters sent by Celine’s father to rescue her, but they always have their own motives.
When I bought this film, I figured it’d be an okay Danny Boyle film. Something along the lines of The Beach that doesn’t quite live up to his better films. I was pleasantly surprised. While its not as good as Slumdog Millionaire or Trainspotting, it was a very enjoyable ride.
With the weird concept and it’s backwoods style, I couldn’t help thinking it was a better Coen film than Raising Arizona was. I couldn’t help laughing at the ridiculous concept of a kidnapper asking the kidnapee about how to properly pull it off. Ewan McGregor does a great job of grounding this into a relatable performance.
I found the cast in this was very hit or miss. McGregor was great, but Diaz was very inconsistent. She seemed intriguing and engaging is some scenes then felt very wooden and bland in others. Lindo’s role didn’t have much, but he was good in the moments he got. Hunter was fun and provided a very unhinged performance. The thing that bothered me was the high-pitched voice she used. Ian Holm and Stanley Tucci were enjoyable as Celine’s father and ex, respectively.
My Favourites from the film: The craziness of the film made for a fun ride, and Diaz’s scenes teaching McGregor how to kidnap were great. It was the first film I’d seen by Danny Boyle that didn’t have any extreme stylistic choices, so that made it easier to get behind the weird concept. The stop-motion end titles sequence was a pleasure to watch.
My Less enjoyed parts: Aside from the issues I had with the performances, the main problem was some of the angel scenes that were a bit too far out there or distracting. The accents threw me off, so I was never quite sure where it was all supposed to be taking place. It hits a bit of a slump before the third act.
My Recommendation: If you’re looking for an odd, small scale comedy, I’d say pick this up. Be ready for something weird and inconsistent. Don’t expect it to follow a contemporary story structure. I would definitely suggest it for fans of the CoenBothers or David O. Russell.