×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dan Fogelman Defends ‘Life Itself’ Against Hilariously Bad Reviews

Critics of “Life Itself” have panned the film so swiftly and with such finality that director Dan Fogelman has felt the need to fight back.

“A couple of the early reviews that have come out about this movie feel so out of left field to everybody who’s a part of this movie,” Fogelman told TooFab. “There’s a disconnect between something that is happening between our primarily white male critics who don’t like anything that has any emotion.”

Despite Fogelman’s defense, several of the negative reviews have come from women — including IndieWire’s Kate Erbland, who calls it “an unholy combination of ‘Rashomon’ and ‘Babel,’ [which] strings together seemingly disparate plotlines into one massive, messy tableau of (sorry, has to be done) life itself, a life that zings toward the warm embrace of death.”

The critiques are especially crushing considering that Fogelman’s hit ABC series “This is Us” garnered eight Emmy nominations this year.

If the slew of negative reviews weren’t enough of a punch in the face for Fogelman, then surely the film’s appallingly low 13% on Rotten Tomatoes should serve as the final knockout. However, that’s still higher than another television award-winner who premiered a film in Toronto, Matthew Weiner’s 2014 “Are You Here,” which stands at 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Here’s what the critics are saying:

Variety’s Jessica Kiang:

“At some point in the career of far too many a rising writer-director, it seems, especially those who lean into the ‘writer’ portion of their portfolio, a demon alights on their shoulder and whispers, ‘You should really make a generations-spanning interlocking-stories narrative that says something deep and elusive about the human condition.’ Pausing to see how the idea is going down (like with chicken pox, some filmmakers will be immune, some will get it only once, and a few, like Paul Haggis and Alejandro G. Iñárritu, will experience subsequent flare-ups), the imp may then add, ‘Just think of the cast you could get!'”

The Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang cleverly used his “A House With a Clock in its Walls” review to get in a dig at “Life Itself.”

“This week in plot-point coincidences, there are two new pictures — ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls’ and ‘Life Itself’ — in which a child is sent to live with a weird uncle after losing Mom and Dad in a car crash. One of these is a full-on horror movie, as patently unbelievable as it is genuinely terrifying, full of cheap shocks and torturous metaphysics and sporting perhaps the most annoying title of the year. The other one, ‘The House With a Clock in Its Walls,’ is a moderately transporting, visually elaborate young-adult fantasy directed by Eli Roth…”

The Wrap’s Robert Abele:

“By the end, when the connections are revealed (although easily predicted), and people have stopped getting hit by buses (also not kidding), here are many of the things “Life Itself” has ruined: Mandy Patinkin and Jean Smart as grandparents; the seriousness of mental illness; sassy baristas; Samuel L. Jackson (all over again); movie references; flirty post-coital talk; profanity; people-growing-old-in-seconds sequences; chapter titles for movies; olive oil. And to reiterate (a favorite tactic of the movie’s): Dylan; flashbacks; narration; love; death; your two hours.”

Thrillist’s Esther Zuckerman:

“Supposedly, Life Itself is all about how really shitty things can happen but love prevails and all of us around the world are interconnected by some cosmic power, but it’s so manipulative that it just makes you want to pull your eyes out.”

Vulture’s Hunter Harris:

“The less said about ‘Life Itself’ — a truly zany multi-timeline melodrama from the creator of that NBC show that makes everyone cry — the better…the movie itself utterly wastes the pairing so beautifully suggested by this perfect photo [of Isaac and Bening.] But at least Dan Fogelman gets to it quickly.”

The New York Times’ A.O. Scott:

“Unreliability is a fascinating and tricky conceit for novelists and filmmakers. It should not be confused with bad writing. There is a lot of that here, and also, to confuse matters further, a lot of good acting. It is poignant and sometimes weirdly thrilling to watch Mr. Isaac, Ms. Wilde and the other cast members — I should also mention Laia Costa and Sergio Peris-Mencheta, though they might prefer that I didn’t — commit with such fervor and seriousness to such utter balderdash. Their efforts and the soft-and-shiny, sun-drenched look of Brett Pawlak’s cinematography might fool the inattentive into mistaking ‘Life Itself’ for a good movie.”

However, Jamie Broadnax of Black Girl Nerds was more forgiving, pointing out that fans of “This Is Us” might appreciate the film.

“You may want to keep some tissues on hand while watching Life Itself. The tears will flow and there’s no way to stop them.”

More Film

  • Film Review: ‘The Gift: The Journey

    ‘The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash’

    Very much in the manner of an “unplugged” acoustic album that showcases the musicianship of a major artist without distracting flash and filigree, “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” is a tightly focused yet impressively multifaceted documentary that attempts nothing less than to delve past familiar myths and illuminate the soul of its fabled [...]

  • Emily Morgan Cormac Fox Gregoire Debailly

    European Film Promotion Reveals 2019's Producers on the Move

    Twenty of Europe’s up-and-coming producers are going to Cannes with European Film Promotion. The organization unveiled its latest roster of Producers on the Move on Wednesday, a lineup that features France’s Gregoire Debailly, who produced Jean-Bernard Marlin’s “Sheherazade,” which premiered in Critics’ Week in Cannes last year, and Ireland’s Cormac Fox, who produced Sophie Hyde’s [...]

  • Avengers EndGame Trailer

    ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Marvel claims the top spot in spending with “Avengers: Endgame.” Ads placed for the superhero film had an estimated media value of $6.28 million through Sunday for 927 national ad airings on 39 networks. (Spend figures [...]

  • Oscar OScars Placeholder

    Netflix Can Chill: Academy Rules No Change in Streaming Oscar Eligibility

    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will not change eligibility rules for the Oscars, despite speculation that streaming companies might see a crackdown on their release practices when pursuing golden trophies. A board of governors meeting on Tuesday voted to maintain the status quo, that any feature-length film can be considered for the [...]

  • Aniara review

    Film Review: 'Aniara'

    Each year brings an example or three of purported “thinking person’s science-fiction” films, a category that pretty much embraces anything not centered on monsters or lightsaber battles. These efforts are often more admirable in theory than result, but “Aniara” — the first film drawn from Nobel Prize-winning Swedish poet Harry Martinson’s 1956 cycle of 103 [...]

  • Avengers: Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame' Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying

    It’s been a long year for Marvel fans since the release of “Avengers: Infinity War,” but the wait is nearly over. The finale to the Infinity Saga is here, and while most diehard fans will know to avoid them for fear of spoilers, early reviews are mostly positive. Last year’s “Infinity War” took home an [...]

  • American Made

    'American Made' Plane Crash Lawsuits End in Settlement

    The producers of the Tom Cruise film “American Made” have settled all litigation surrounding a 2015 plane crash in Colombia that killed two pilots. The settlement resolves pending suits in both California and Georgia. A notice of settlement was filed in Santa Monica Superior Court on Monday. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content