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With a cutesy-catchy title (creatively rendered “L!fe Happens” in its festival release), a breezily tweaked spin on a contempo romantic comedy template and three attractive, recognizable lead actresses, the calculus behind director Kat Coiro’s Life Happens is fairly transparent.
There’s certainly an audience for this sort of slick, self-absorbed comedy and the appealing casting augurs well for a brief theatrical run. But the film will most likely find its real home on the small screen, with attentive viewers curled up on the couch with a dish of ice cream.
Thirtyish hip chicks Kim (Krysten Ritter), best friend Deena (Kate Bosworth) and third wheel Laura (Rachel Bilson) share a spotless, impossibly affordable rental in LA’s trendy Silver Lake district. During a decisive evening of dueling hook ups, Deena ends up with the last remaining condom in the house, leaving Kim unprepared in every way. Flash-forward a year and Kim is now the single mom of a baby boy (several months older than the age suggested by the narrative’s timeline), who ends up with full-time custody after the kid’s Australian pro surfer dad takes off on tour.
Her dog-walking responsibilities for a boss from hell (Kristen Johnson) pose endless scheduling challenges for Kat, but her girlfriends are always there to help with childcare, except when they flake their babysitting commitments. After all, Deena has her rapidly emerging career as a snarky romance advice writer to pursue, not to mention the random guys frequently crossing her path. And wanna-be reality TV star and token virgin Laura always seems to have some humiliating gig as a naked human sushi platter or scantily clad parking attendant on her schedule.
Things get even more complicated when Kat decides to get back into the dating scene, rapidly meeting hunky, almost-divorced Nicholas (Geoff Stults) and inadvertently letting slip that Deena is her son’s mom. Now she has to juggle a kid and a guy while trying to figure a way out of the mess she’s created for herself.
Co-writers Coiro and Ritter fill in the schematic script with some juicy lines and amusing situations but never lock on to a consistent tone or thematic throughline. Although the character arcs are fairly predictable, there’s some nice interplay between the actors, particularly Ritter and Bosworth as the thoroughly bonded but frequently conflicted BFFs. Overall however, the script prompts the actors to overplay their roles so broadly it’s practically squirm-worthy.
The filmmakers are definitely onto something special about relationships between women of a certain pre-middle age — the sex-positive girl-power vibe is refreshing, but the execution dissipates most of the film’s potential. These are smart, attractive independent women, who still look to men to validate their self-worth.
Coiro demonstrates an accessible, studio-style flair for directing that suits the material but rarely surprises. Doug Chamberlain’s cinematography and Kathrin Eder’s production design burnish the film’s appearance to a glossy sheen that doesn’t quite fit the women’s reduced circumstances.
Venue: Los Angeles Film Festival
Production companies: Dot Dot Dot Productions presents a Stardust Pictures production
Cast: Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson, Geoff Stults, Justin Kirk, Kristen Johnston, Rhys Coiro, Jason Biggs
Director: Kat Coiro
Screenwriters: Kat Coiro, Krysten Ritter
Producer: Justin L. Levine
Director of photography: Doug Chamberlain
Music: Mateo Messina
Production designer: Kathrin Eder
Editors: Adam Catino, Eli Nilsen
No rating, 101 minutes
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