It’s really not a big secret that I am a Katherine Heigl fan, and that I even like a few of her movies that I probably would not have seen if she hadn’t been in them. I had half a mind to stop watching Grey’s Anatomy after the way they wrote her out (not because, but how, mind you), and I actually own 27 Dresses on Blu-Ray (not my proudest moment, but I do love a Blu-Ray player and we have a very nice telly). I have a thing for business savvy women in the entertainment industry who tend to make ripples by not putting up with bullshit when it comes their way simply because they aren’t going to tow a certain line, or, dearest Ceiling Cat help us all, speak their minds.
Turns out that Heigl has a brain up there, and like her Rom-Coms or her character on Grey’s or not (prior to the attempts at shoddy writing for her — I mean, cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a deer?!), you can’t deny that the woman is a smart shot when it comes to her career. I don’t think we are going to be seeing her taking just any role for long, especially if she takes on projects like Life As We Know It and making them turn a smart profit. Heigl didn’t just star in the film, as I’ve mentioned before, but she actually served as one of the executive producers, alongside her mother, pulling the film in on a tight budget and taking quite a hand in control over many creative issues she felt strongly about.
It paid off.
Unlike films that she has done in the past, Life As We Know It told a story a little closer to a power balance in a Rom-Com setting that bordered on Drama with the right parts of each that it seems Heigl has been looking for. Not completely devoid of tropes common to this genre of movie, but moving past them for my purposes at this time, I was relieved to see Heigl take on a role closer to the the acting chops I keep reading she has, and that I know she is capable of from her smaller screen performances.
Life As We Know It is the story of two single people who find themselves left caring for their goddaughter, Sophie, after her parents are killed in a car accident. The will requests they live in the house, mortgage paid for by the estate left behind, as they raise the girl together so that she may grow up as undisturbed as possible.
The roles she and Josh Duhamel played had their stereotypes — she willing to step up and become a parent and he shying away from responsibility because it interrupts his dude-bro-in’ — but they seem to flow together in things they do wrong and the way they express feelings, sympathies, and a willingness to please each other and pull together for the right reasons. We don’t see the dude run and hide right away while the gal is gung-ho and ready to hunker down and get matrimonial. Instead, we see two single people who had career goals who now are trying to figure out why the hell their friends would ever dream to put them in this predicament full well knowing that they two of them intensely dislike one another (firmly established early on). The only things they seem to know for sure is that they want what is best for this little girl they are trying to raise together and that “what is best” might not be the two of them together.
Suspending your reality just a bit is going to be required if you have a basic understanding of U.S. Child Protective Services, legal systems, and the realities of being the new parent of a young child, let alone what that would be like when forced into the situation of doing so with a person you just can not stand. But the story and acting makes for a charming escape into a world of privileged fantasy that is occasionally shadowed by the panic of young people realizing they might be in over their heads.
Some warm community support is brought in by the very white neighborhood, offering their advice, something believable yet delivered by every trope they could trot out except for affluent black doctor or lawyer (I guess the only non-white people existing in Georgia drive cabs or work in television studios). You had Lazy Fat Woman (sadly Melissa McCarthy doesn’t seem to be getting work worthy of her post-Gilmore), the Gay Dads, and the Hot Wife of the Washed-Up Jock.
The movie delivers sweet acting, a somewhat unbelievable yet enjoyably predicable plot, and some good heart-wrenching moments. It’s the kind of movie you could take a date or a good friend to, though I don’t recommend going alone, but that’s just me. Perhaps your popcorn is enough to hide your sniffles, but I need someone to gently pick on me when the waterworks start. Movies, to me, are meant to make you feel things, even if they are brain candy, which is what I consider a well-done Rom-Com/Drama to be. Enjoyable and able to make you forget about things you don’t want to think about for a short time.
So, write off Dr. Izzy Stevens and go see a good Heigl movie. No pun intended, but she is making the right kind of baby steps, and I am hoping to see better things in the future.