A Life Less Ordinary

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A Life Less Ordinary
Life less.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny Boyle
Produced by Andrew Macdonald
Written by John Hodge
Starring Ewan McGregor
Cameron Diaz
Holly Hunter
Delroy Lindo
Ian Holm
Music by David Arnold
Cinematography Brian Tufano
Editing by Masahiro Hirakubo
Studio Figment Films
Channel Four Films
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
(United States)
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
(International)
Release dates 24 October 1997
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $12,000,000 (estimated)
Box office $4,366,722 (USA)

A Life Less Ordinary is a 1997 British-American black comedy film directed by Danny Boyle, written by John Hodge. It stars Ewan McGregor, Cameron Diaz, Holly Hunter, Delroy Lindo and Ian Holm.

Plot[edit]

In Heaven (which resembles a modern police headquarters), angels are tasked with ensuring that mortals on Earth find love. The "Captain", Gabriel (Dan Hedaya), is upset at reviewing the file of angel partners O'Reilly (Hunter) and Jackson (Lindo), all of whose recent cases have ended in divorce or misery. Gabriel is being pressed for results, so he introduces a radical new incentive: if their latest case isn't "cracked" – meaning, if the pair in question do not fall, and stay, in love, O'Reilly and Jackson must stay on Earth forever, not appealing to them. They open their case file, and see what is in store for them...

Celine Naville (Diaz) is the spoiled twenty-something daughter of a wealthy businessman. When one of her suitors, a loathsome dentist named Elliott (Stanley Tucci), proposes marriage to her, she offers to say yes, but only if he agrees to play "William Tell" with an apple on his head. As she takes aim with a pistol, Elliot's nerves fail and he moves to stop her, spoiling her aim and causing a non-fatal head wound.

Robert Lewis (McGregor) is a janitor employed in the basement of Celine's father's company. His dreams for writing a best-selling trash novel are shot down by his co-workers, and he is told by his manager that he is being made redundant and replaced by a robot. As he drowns his sorrows at a local bar, his girlfriend, Lily (K.K. Dodds) tells him she is leaving him for an aerobics instructor.

O'Reilly and Jackson start their process by posing as collection agents repossessing all of Robert's things and evicting him from his apartment. Deciding that this is the last straw, Robert storms to the high-rise office of Mr Naville (Ian Holm) while Naville is berating Celine for the William Tell fiasco. Security guards run in and start to beat Robert to a pulp, but he grabs one of their guns and holds them at bay (accidentally shooting Naville in the thigh). When Celine introduces herself, Robert decides to kidnap her.

He drives her to a remote cabin in the California woods. Soon, it becomes clear that Celine is the one in control: after easily slipping free after he has tied her up, she surprises him by sticking around. Robert comes to realise that she is so bored with her normal life, and hates her father so much, that she is staying with the adventure, and the chance to get back at Naville. Eventually, she proposes that they partner up to extort a huge ransom.

O'Reilly and Jackson, now posing as bounty hunters, hire themselves to Naville to retrieve Celine and kill Robert.

After Robert's first attempt to collect the ransom fails (when O'Reilly opens fire on him with a machine gun), he feels downcast, but Celine encourages him that he got away. Feeling cheered up, he takes her out to a rustic bar, where they pretend to be newlyweds, and sing "Beyond the Sea" on the karaoke machine. The next morning, Robert wakes up and is stunned to see that he and Celine have apparently slept together.

Robert makes a second demand for the ransom, with a letter written in Celine's blood. Naville gives O'Reilly and Jackson the money, and they go to meet Robert in the forest. To their disappointment, Robert appears willing to let Celine go in exchange for the money before O'Reilly stops his getaway. Aside, Jackson confesses his fears that the two are not in love yet. O'Reilly responds, "Jeopardy, Jackson. Always works."

While O'Reilly and Celine wait by their car, Jackson takes Robert into the woods to execute him. Before he can, Celine decks O'Reilly, runs into the woods, and knocks Jackson out with a shovel. As Robert and Celine drive away, O'Reilly grabs the towbar and rides along. As she points her gun, Robert and Celine jump from the car, and it careers off a cliff, with the money still inside.

Since they are short of money, Celine decides to rob a bank with Jackson's pistol. The robbery goes smoothly, until a security guard shoots at Celine. Robert pushes her out of the way, taking a bullet in the thigh. Celine hurriedly drives him back to the city, to be operated on by Elliot (the closest thing she can find to a discreet medical specialist). A little later, when Robert regains consciousness, he is appalled to see Celine playing a sleazy sexual role-playing game with Elliott. A fight breaks out, and Robert knocks Elliott unconscious. As they drive away, Celine explains that she only agreed to Elliott's request so that he would help Robert – and, in any case, it's none of Robert's business, since he and Celine aren't "involved," whatever he might think. Hurt, Robert gets out of the car and walks away.

To get them back together, Jackson writes a love poem in Robert's handwriting and sends it to Celine. Overcome, she runs back to the bar, where Robert has started working as a janitor, and says he has won her heart with the poem. O'Reilly and Jackson, listening, dance for joy... until Robert says that he's never written a poem in his life. Humiliated, Celine runs out again. But after she's gone, Robert's boss, Al (Tony Shalhoub), knocks some sense into him: Robert has nothing in his life except the improbable love of "an intelligent, passionate, beautiful, rich woman... so why are you even thinking about it?" Robert runs after Celine, but is too late: O'Reilly and Jackson, believing they have failed, decide to make their Earth-bound lives bearable by kidnapping Celine for ransom.

Robert tracks Celine to their hideout, where she's being held, blindfolded and gagged. Robert knocks O'Reilly down with a punch. As he struggles with Jackson, he tells Celine that he truly does love her. Just as O'Reilly and Jackson are about to give her up and celebrate their success, the door is kicked down by Naville's butler, Mayhew (Ian McNeice), who shoots the two angels in the head (apparently killing them).

Leaving Celine locked in the trunk, Naville and Mayhew drove Robert and the two angels' bodies to the cabin, planning to fake a murder-suicide.

In Heaven, Gabriel's secretary begs him to intervene, but he protests that he doesn't have the authority. Instead, he telephones God and asks Him to do so. God agrees, and Celine is released from the truck by their neighbour, Tod (Maury Chaykin). Taking Tod's gun, she runs to the cabin and confronts her father, while Mayhew holds Robert at gunpoint.

Throughout the film, Robert has had recurring dreams of having his life saved by being shot through the heart by an "arrow of love." Taking a leap of faith, Celine shoots Robert through the heart, and the bullet passes through without harming him, to hit Mayhew in the shoulder, crippling him. Seeing Robert survive an apparent gunshot wound to the heart drives Naville insane.

After a whispered conference in Al's bar, Robert and Celine walk outside to their wedding.

In an epilogue, Gabriel frees O'Reilly and Jackson from a pair of body bags. After Gabriel congratulates them on a successful case, the two angels embrace as they prepare to return home.

In a second epilogue (filmed with claymation), Robert and Celine retrieve the suitcase full of money from the crashed car in the woods, then settle down in their new castle in Scotland.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

A Life Less Ordinary has received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 40% based on 35 reviews, with an average score of 5.5/10.[1] Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score in the 0–100 range based on reviews from mainstream critics, calculated an average score of 35% for the film, based on reviews from 22 critics.[2]

Roger Ebert gave A Life Less Ordinary a negative review, presenting it 2 out of 4 stars. He described the film as a "movie that never convinces us that it needed to be made." He goes on to call the plot a mess and states that it "expends enormous energy to tell a story that is tedious and contrived."[3]

Box-office performance[edit]

The film opened up in theatres on 24 October 1997. During its opening weekend, the film ranked 9th overall by pulling in only $2,007,279. By the end of its run, the film grossed a total of $4,366,722 in the United States.[4]

Adaptations[edit]

The film was serialised as a full-length comic strip within leading British comic 2000 AD, written by then-editor David Bishop and drawn by Steve Yeowell. Screenwriter John Hodge also wrote a novelisation of the film that was published by Penguin Books (ISBN 0-14-027215-1).

References[edit]

External links[edit]