dir. Stephen Herek
Opens Fri April 26 at various theaters.
Angelina Jolie's new movie--and her first romantic comedy--Life or Something Like It, could be retitled "Seattle or Something Like It." Half the fun of this movie is the Seattle backdrop; there's a thrill in seeing your town on the big screen. It gives you the chance to see the city through someone else's lens, and you can look for your friends and neighbors in the background crowds.
The other fascination of this movie (which is so superficial, you can't expect much more out of it than pure fun) comes from analyzing Jolie's new blond hair: Is it a wig? Why does it look so fake? The hair is her trademark as a young television reporter who is covering Seattle until her dreams of becoming a network anchor come true. Unfortunately, her coifed hair is ruffled and her ego is taken down a notch when a homeless street prophet tells her she will die in a week. In an attempt to evade the death sentence, she revamps her life, searches for meaning, and gets her dream job--all while falling in love.
But for folks familiar with Seattle, the syrupy sweet plot is just a distraction from looking for people you know and places you've been to. It's too bad the moviemakers decided to film half the thing in Vancouver, then try to convince us it really is Seattle by throwing in a dozen gratuitous skyline shots.
In the movie's first few minutes, Jolie's character, Lanie Kerigan, reports live from the Capitol Hill Zoo, with a monkey climbing on her shoulder. Anyone even vaguely familiar with Seattle knows that Capitol Hill is way too dense for a zoo. However, we do have a perfectly good zoo, complete with monkeys, that would have sufficed.
Kerigan and her Seattle Mariner boyfriend dine at the nonexistent but posh Elliott Bay Grill. The glitzy waterfront eatery looks cool, but aren't there other real glitzy waterfront places that could have been showcased? You know, ones that we can go to after the movie? Several scenes were filmed in Fifth Avenue's Icon Grill, after all, which played the role of a rollicking sports bar.
New downtown intersections pop up, like Fourth and Sanders--that's where the homeless prophet camps out. Apparently it's downtown, but last I checked, most of Seattle's homeless don't have warm and private underground caves in the downtown core. There's a Sander Road on Beacon Hill, near the Amazon.com headquarters, but it's nowhere near Fourth Avenue.
Jolie also covers a bus strike (complete with riot-gear-clad cops) alongside reporters from a fictitious rival station, Northwest 2. She supposedly works for KOMO 4 News, and a few real newscasters and reporters from that station, such as Steve Pool, make appearances for added effect. But the fake Northwest 2 van cements the fact that's she not a real reporter: She's a phony in a phony city.
The false city is still fun to watch. It's not often that Hollywood filmmakers choose Seattle as a backdrop. The few times that they have also resulted in revamping the city to their liking (such as Tom Hanks rowing his boat on Lake Union, which cuts to Alki Beach in Sleepless in Seattle). It's just unfortunate that filmmakers don't think Seattle is complete enough, or glitzy enough, or quaint enough, without adding in their own effects and editing tricks.
Granted, there are gorgeous shots of Seattle during a sunset, and cute scenes at Alki Beach. Kerigan has a beautiful apartment (perhaps in a nearly vacant Belltown condo tower?), and gets the run of Safeco Field after hours. The movie's newsroom shots were apparently staged at the real KOMO 4 offices--now we know what Kathi Goertzen's day is like.
Despite our remodeled town, I still hold out some hope for Life or Something Like It. Please tell me it won't suffer the same fate as other Seattle-set romantic comedies like Sleepless in Seattle, which spawned countless tourist-trap T-shirts (still available at the Pike Place Market and the airport). I don't think I can handle Jolie's shellacked blond mug on a T-shirt. I may have to move.