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"The Good Life"

Directed by Steve Berra.
Written by Steve Berra.
Starring Mark Webber, Zooey Deschanel, Harry Dean Stanton and Bill Paxton.
Release Year:  ?
Review Date:  1/30/07


Well, after seeing Mark Webber's second film at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, this much has become clear--it was not Webber's year.  "The Good Life" is not as bad as the other flick he appears in here, "Weapons", but it is another exercise in futility for a promising star.  Another trend here at Sundance: everyone needs to make their movie with the ending being shown first, because about half of the feature films here used this technique.

Okay, there's my minor non-related rant for this review.  "The Good Life" features Webber as Jason, a 20-something loser who is living in Lincoln, Nebraska, working two jobs and progressing towards a lifetime of unfulfilled potential.  Then he meets Frances (Zooey Deschanel), a former singer who comes into Jason's life and changes both of them forever.  Along the way, this puppy has some pretty random characters show up, played by equally random cast members Donal Logue, Bill Paxton and Chris Klein, amongst others.

I'll admit that this was a tough 8:30 AM movie to sit through, due to its depressing subject matter, depressing location, depressing soundtrack and depressing introduction (which shows us the ending).  Webber is better than he was in "Weapons" but his character as written is a bit dry.  Deschanel continues to baffle me with her talent, mostly because I still don't think she has any.  Harry Dean Stanton's turn as the loser's aging uncle is predictable; it doesn't leave you thinking Oscar, that's for sure.

And, Lincoln--much like Buffalo in Vincent Gallo's "Buffalo '66"--is a sad, sad place on film.  The film's college football backstory also died on the table for me; ugh.  Save for a few very funny scenes (most notably a Christmas game of white elephant that has the movie's best laughs), "The Good Life" is nothing special.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09