Fresh off the success of Trainspotting, and with a boatload of pressure, Danny Boyle decided to tackle a rather different project for his next directing effort. And, while A Life Less Ordinary is definitely not a mainstream sell-out, it isn’t a very good film.
The movie opens in a police station in heaven, where Chief Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) is getting pressure from “up above” to help more earthlings fall in love. He assigns two angels, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter) to a particularly difficult case, with the extra incentive that they can only return to heaven once the job is done.
The first member of the intended couple is Celine (Cameron Diaz), the spoiled and bored daughter of billionaire Naville (Ian Holm). She entertains herself with such dangerous tasks as pistol-shooting, William Tell style.
Jackson and O’Reilly are sent to match her with the bumbling fool, Robert (Ewan McGregor). Robert is a janitor who works for Naville…rather, make that “worked”. When he is replaced by a cleaning robot, he finally snaps. An intended confrontation with his ex-employer goes wrong, and he ends up kidnapping his boss’ daughter, Celine. But, of course, all of this is part of Jackson and O’Reilly’s plan, in which the strongest relationships are forged in the flames of jeopardy.
To keep better tabs on the couple, the angelic pair pose as bounty hunters, and are hired by Naville to “handle” the affair, aka kill Robert and return Celine.
A Life Less Ordinary maintains the interesting visual flair present in Danny Boyle’s previous films, but it is missing the depth. Mixing angels and guns, karaoke and kidnapping, crime and comedy, A Life Less Ordinary does so many different things that it masters none. The film exerts all of its energy to create its warped atmosphere, and there’s nothing left to spark the film’s romantic core. However, there’s something to say for a film so schizophrenic that a diversion into claymation at the end doesn’t even seem strange.
The cast is a mixed bag. Ewan McGregor is appropriately dense in his first all-out comic role. Cameron Diaz looks good, but there’s little cohesion to her character. Delroy Lindo is enjoyable as one of the angelic pair, but Holly Hunter blatantly overacts and borders on being irritating.
A Life Less Ordinary is perhaps one of the most bizaare romantic comedies, but definitely not one of the best.