You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

A Beautiful Life

Misguided pic manages to provide unintentional laughs by the barrel.

With: Angela Sarafyan, Jesse Garcia, Bai Ling, Debi Mazar, Dana Delany, Jonathan LaPaglia, Meltem Cumbul, Rena Owen.

It’s tough to find comedy in a dead-serious, skid-row-set film about homelessness, sexual abuse, incest and the exploitation of immigrants, but the misguided “A Beautiful Life” manages to provide unintentional laughs by the barrel. A waste of a talented, earnest cast, this borderline offensive indie, set for an Oct. 2 limited release, shouldn’t take up too much valuable theater space before fading away.

Angela Sarafyan (who deserves better) toplines as Maggie, a troubled teenage runaway who lands in downtown Los Angeles and seeks refuge in a dumpster behind a strip club — all the better to facilitate gratuitous and contextually inappropriate footage of topless dancers. She’s soon discovered by dishwasher David (Jesse Garcia; see note about Sarafyan above), a good-looking illegal immigrant who invites her into his oddly palatial dwelling, offers her free shelter and food, and behaves like a perfect gentleman. Naturally, Maggie repays his kindness with needless rudeness and resentment just long enough to realize she’s attracted to him.

Both characters speak in unnaturally terse, staccato bursts of exposition (resembling something David Mamet might write after a sharp blow to the head), as does Bai Ling’s Esther, a stripper and aspiring singer torn between two men, in one of the pic’s many tenuously connected subplots. (Debi Mazar, Dana Delany and Meltem Cumbul round out the supporting cast.)

Eventually, traces of a coherent narrative emerge as Maggie comes to terms with her sexuality (twisted and sadomasochistic, in keeping with the sensationalistic tone of the film) and winds up indebted to Turkish drug runners after she’s robbed at gunpoint by a gang of scantily clad Eastern European models, who then flee in a limo while screaming, “I love America!” That this latter scene isn’t played for laughs should indicate just how far off the rails the film is willing to go — were it not for its tasteless, opportunistic inclusion of so many serious issues, one would almost be tempted to applaud the pic’s sheer audacity.

To his credit, director Alejandro Chomski usually manages to keep his poorly lit shots in focus, though intentionally jittery handheld camera work and epileptic editing make half the film seem as though it takes place during a small earthquake. Other tech contributions feel rushed and half-finished.

A Beautiful Life

Production: A New Films Intl. release of a Calla Prods., New Films Intl. and Bob Holof production. Produced by Deborah Calla, Nesim Hason. Executive producers, Holof, Sezin Hason, Serap Acuner, Lusi Filiba, Izak Filiba. Co-producers, Mark Clark, Lansing Parker. Directed by Alejandro Chomski. Screenplay, Deborah Calla, Wendy Hammond, from a play by Hammond.

Crew: Camera (color, DV), Nancy Schreiber; editor, Alex Blatt; music, Ruy Folguera; production designer, Natalie Sanfilippo; supervising sound editor, Ben Zarai; assistant director, Nancy Jacobs. Reviewed at ArcLight Cinemas, Hollywood, Sept. 24, 2009. Running time: 81 MIN.

With: With: Angela Sarafyan, Jesse Garcia, Bai Ling, Debi Mazar, Dana Delany, Jonathan LaPaglia, Meltem Cumbul, Rena Owen.

More Film

  • Martin Scorsese's 'Rolling Thunder' Bob Dylan

    Martin Scorsese's 'Rolling Thunder' Bob Dylan Doc Hits Netflix June 12 (EXCLUSIVE)

    You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows, but Bob Dylan fans have been waiting for some kind of reliable forecast to know when “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese” might be rolling in. Here’s that storm alert: Netflix will be releasing the documentary June 12. [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    Box Office: 'Avengers: Endgame' Racks Up Massive $169 Million Globally

    “Avengers: Endgame” is barreling toward a record-eviscerating weekend after opening to a mighty $169 million in its initial day of global release. That heroic haul includes a $107.5 million debut in China, an $8.4 million launch in South Korea, a $7 million bow in Australia and a $6 million day one in France. All in, [...]

  • Phyllida Lloyd’s ‘Herself’ Adds Cast, Cornerstone

    Phyllida Lloyd’s ‘Herself’ Adds Cast, Cornerstone Boards Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    Cornerstone Films has boarded sales on “Herself,” the female-driven movie from “Mamma Mia!” and “The Iron Lady” helmer Phyllida Lloyd. Irish actor Clare Dunne, who starred in Lloyd’s all-female theater production of “Henry IV,” will play a single mother determined to build her own home with a free online plan, rebuilding her life in the [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    How the Avengers Became Such a Marvel in China

    “Avengers: Endgame” is on the fast track to becoming Hollywood’s most successful title ever in China, having already raked in RMB1 billion ($148 million) in just 45 hours – more than the Chinese earnings for “Wonder Woman” and “Once Upon a Deadpool” combined. It made as much in a single hour as the entire opening [...]

  • Todd Phillips

    Why 'Hangover' Director Todd Phillips Keeps Coming Back to His Favorite DP, Lawrence Sher

    “That’s my guy Larry,” says director Todd Phillips upon learning that Variety has selected his favorite DP, Lawrence Sher, as a billion-dollar cinematographer. The duo have worked together on a half dozen films, including all three installments of the “Hangover” franchise, “Due Date,” “War Dogs” and the upcoming “Joker,” with Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De [...]

  • Lawrence Sher Cinematographer

    Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Shoots Smash Comedies and Big Blockbusters Alike

    For cinematographer Lawrence Sher, the focus has always been on the director. That philosophy has carried Sher’s imagery to millions of filmgoers, including his latest work set to hit screens this year: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters,” directed by Michael Dougherty, and “Joker,” directed by Todd Phillips, who has also collaborated with Sher on all [...]

  • Désirée Finnegan Named Screen Ireland Chief

    Warner Bros. Exec Désirée Finnegan Named Screen Ireland Chief

    Désirée Finnegan will be the new chief executive of Screen Ireland, replacing the outgoing James Hickey. Finnegan, who hails from Dublin, joins from Warner Bros. Pictures where she was SVP, theatrical marketing and publicity, and guided strategy for campaigns across the EMEA region. In a 15-year stint at the Hollywood studio she worked on campaigns [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content