A Life Less Ordinary (Danny Boyle, 1998)

Danny Boyle follows the flawless ‘Trainspotting’ with ‘A Life Less Ordinary’. Generally, most people see it as his weakest film and – to some extent – it is. But lets put this in perspective ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Sunshine’, ’28 Days Later’, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, ‘Millions’ – all of these are at least 9 or 10 out of 10 … ‘The Beach’ may be a 7 or 8. Lets break it down – John Hodge is back writing, but I have to admit, it is his writing that seems to be the problem rather than Boyle’s directing. ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ still shows the events in a way that is anything but generic – shooting McGregor coming home with a CCTV birds-eye-view, the fantastic silhouettes in the opening showing a stunning sunset while Cameron Diaz crosses the view in a swimsuit. The perfectly framed William-Tell, Magritte-reference as Mayhew (Ian McNiece) places an apple on his head for Diaz to shoot off. But, nevertheless, it is the script – or maybe Diaz’s delivery of the script – that seems to fall flat. Trying to juggle the spoilt-brat-rich-girl qualities (I can never relate), with the love-of-McGregors-cleaner-charm is a difficult thing to do. Do we even want McGregor to get with her? Dig deeper into ‘the bosses daughter’ and it seems like a character full of conflicting views. Then again, maybe she is simply a very conflicted person.

The mix of Tarantino and screwball-comedy, road movie doesn’t work very well either, with unnecessary direct references to both. For example, post-bungled-robbery, Robert (McGregor) bleeds in the backseat of a car while Celine (Diaz) drives – “I don’t wanna die…” he says akin to Tim Roth in ‘Reservoir Dogs’. The ‘thumbs-hitchhike’ sequence of ‘It Happened One Night’ is alluded to as both Robert and Celine attempt to slow a car down – but Diaz has not got the presence of Claudette Colbert, while McGregor has not commanded our attention as Clark Gable does. The road of the film is bumpy, whereby as soon as it begins to get comfortable we are shifted towards something else. Whilst our attention is clearly focussed on the couple attempting to fall in love, we are distracted by not-so-interesting Angels (Lindo and Hunter) – and this is not the fault of the actors, they simply do not seem to say anything that helpful. We get it, they are trying to get the couple to fall in love and they can predict some things, but the clumsy-ness of their plots to get the two together do not suit their characters who seem to be professionals. If they were professionals, then I would be interested in what they have to say, if they were bumbling-idiotic characters, then I would laugh, but they are neither, they are just distracting.

Personally, deep down, I love the surreal attitude of it and I cannot help but love the stylish directing of Boyle and cinematography of Tufano … but when the script falls a little flat, the whole film falls down and this happens rather regularly.

On a side note … Empire Magazine
I just bought the new magazine 20th Anniversary and it is flawless. I am sorry Empire magazine, turns out your not that bad a mag.


  1. Great review, i think I agree with most of ti and theres some good insight here. I have to say I might come down on it a little higher, (hehe clever) I like dfthe two 'angles' role in the film but then again your right, if they are good, then their foiled plans, )or plans that were to be foiled), should have been better to start with.

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