January 2, 2017


A Life Less Ordinary – 1997 | 103mins | Romance, Comedy | Colour


Plot Synopsis

A Life Less Ordinary

The acclaimed Trainspotting trio (director Danny Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, scripter John Hodge) reunited for this update of ’30s screwball comedies and ’40s fantasies, such as the 1946 classic A Matter of Life and Death (Stairway to Heaven) (co-directed by Macdonald’s grandfather, Emeric Pressburger). In Heaven, Gabriel (Dan Hedaya) sends angels O’Reilly (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) down to Earth to make two people fall in love. If the angels fail, they must remain on Earth. The target couple: well-to-do Celine (Cameron Diaz) and impoverished, aspiring novelist Robert (Ewan McGregor), as Robert the janitor with dreams of writing a trashy best-seller (whose premise sounds as bankable as most that are made into movies, including this one, despite everyone’s disparagement of it as “obvious”), Ewan McGregor evinces a sweet naivete on the near side of simple-mindedness. With a bad haircut and a patterned shirt, he’s a cross between Dudley Moore and Malcolm McDowell, suggesting a sweetness just about to turn, a softness with a glint of razors underneath.

Replaced by a robot, Robert confronts his boss, the soulless corporate magnate Naville (it rhymes with Devil), to whom Ian Holm gives a sombre, steely edge. When the meeting collapses into some brilliant sight gags involving beefy security guards, an errant handgun, and Robert’s dogged mechanical replacement, Robert kidnaps (a crime increasingly posed in movies as an alternative to unemployment) Naville’s spoiled daughter Celine. He speeds out to the desert without a clue what to do next.

The two retreat to a mountain hideout where both kidnapper and victim decide to split the ransom, however the destinies are being controlled ineptly, by two angels on probation for failing in their mission to promote true love on earth. Jackson and O’Reilly have been summoned to the office of Chief Gabriel and given one last chance to retain their heavenly status. They must effect the union between this most unlikely couple or be marooned forever on earth. The ground rules of their intervention seem fast and loose. After manipulating the kidnapping, the angels become hired by Naville as bounty hunters, they set the couple up in situations of increasingly outrageous danger and absurdity. The simplest schemes work best, as when, in a sublime inversion of the karaoke scene in Dennis Potter’s Karaoke, Robert and Celine perform a rousing production of “Beyond the Sea” in a redneck bar. The angels make few gains, Naville cancels Celine’s credit card, so she robs a bank. Robert is shot during the robbery, and Celine has dentist Elliot (Stanley Tucci) remove the bullet. Robert awakens, finds the two together, and knocks out Elliot, prompting an argument that leads Celine and Robert to separate. Plagued by their own problems, the angels kidnap Celine themselves, and as complications mount, Gabriel eventually has God intervene.

Filmed in Utah, although Hodge originally planned the story to take place in France and England.

Production Team

Danny Boyle: Director
Mike Mort: Animation
Tracy Gallacher: Art Direction
Matias Alvarez: Asst Director
Brian Tufano: Cinematography
Rachael Fleming: Costume Designer
Masahiro Hirakubo: Editing
David Arnold: Music
Andrew Macdonald: Producer
Kave Quinn: Production Designer
John Hodge: Script
Douglas Cameron: Sound
Paul Hamblin: Sound


Ewan McGregor: Robert
Cameron Diaz: Celine
Holly Hunter: O\’Reilly
Delroy Lindo: Jackson
Ian Holm: Naville
Ian MacNeice: Mayhew
Stanley Tucci: Elliot
Dan Hedaya: Gabriel

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