About the Post

Author Information

Janna is a staff writer for The Hudsucker. Born and raised in a small Ontario town, she made her move to Toronto for university and immediately fell in love with the excitement and pace of the big city. She holds an Honors Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film Production from York University, specializing in editing and screenwriting. She currently works as an assistant editor for a television production company. Janna loves stories told in all mediums, especially film, and takes herself to the movies as much as she possibly can. She can generally be found taking a Zumba class, exploring some of Toronto’s lesser-known gems, or relaxing with her fluffy feline roommate.

Janna Does TIFF: Life of Crime

A clueless housewife, two incompetent kidnappers, a gun-toting roommate, a wimpy hopeful lover, and an indifferent husband with a brash mistress – sounds like the beginning of a great joke, right? Or at least the makings of a fun and mad-cap comedy. Unfortunately, despite the talented actors and empowering ending, Life of Crime never really lives up to its kooky premise.

Life of Crime, directed by Daniel Schecter, was the film chosen to close out the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s easy to see why – on paper, the film has just enough drama to be compelling fare, but enough comedy to keep it from being a heavy couple hours. It’s an accessible film with components intended to appeal to a variety of film-goers. The problem with attempting to keep things accessible, unfortunately, is that the film ultimately winds up feeling average.

Credit Abbolita Productions

Credit Abbolita Productions

The film tells the story of Mickey Dawson (Jennifer Aniston), harmless and demure housewife to Frank (Tim Robbins), a rich and prominent member of the Detroit community in the late 1970s. While Frank is away in Florida, Mickey is kidnapped by petty criminals Ordell (Mos Def) and Louis (John Hawkes), who hold her ransom for one million dollars. Unfortunately for them, their timing is off – Frank arranged to file for divorce right before his trip, and is actually in Florida with his long-time mistress Melanie (Isla Fisher). Why pay to rescue your wife when the kidnappers’ threats to kill her will take care of that pesky issue of alimony?

With a cast featuring Tim Robbins, Jennifer Aniston, John Hawkes, and Mos Def, it’s hard to go wrong – these are talented, seasoned actors who can easily raise the level of the material they’re working with thanks to their performances. And that’s exactly what they do here – these actors are better than the roles they’re given, and many of the small, inspired character moments we see throughout the film are clearly thanks to them. Aniston in particular is great as Mickey, and it’s fun to watch her enjoy herself in a fun, multi-faceted role that harks back to her days on Friends. The burgeoning lovers storyline that develops between Aniston and Hawkes’ characters barely holds itself together, and it’s easy to believe that, under different actors, it would have completely fallen apart. Will Forte is another fun addition as Mickey’s wimpy would-be paramour who witnesses her abduction – he’s great with meek and self-effacing characters, and he’s a great moment of genuine levity in a film that, overall, feels lackluster.

Credit Jag Gundu

Credit Jag Gundu

Ultimately, Life of Crime suffers from walking the line between drama and comedy. The comedy, while entertaining, isn’t enough to fully commit to the genre – the subject matter is, by nature, dramatic, and the film doesn’t lean far enough into the humour to pull it from that category. Instead, the comedy lightens the dramatic moments just enough that the stakes don’t feel real. You’re never really concerned that Ordell and Louis are going to harm Mickey – their threats feel empty, despite the conviction with which they’re presented. Even the main threat of the story, the neo-Nazi roommate of Ordell and Louis who takes far too much of a liking to Mickey, is exaggerated so much so that most of his threats and attempts at harming her only come off as silly or ridiculous. There aren’t enough high stakes and drama to keep the audience gripped and invested, and there isn’t enough comedy to keep the audience constantly laughing. Some films can successfully bounce back and forth between dramatic and comedic moments – unfortunately, Life of Crime isn’t one of them.

The high point of the film, however, is the ending. The last fifteen minutes focus on resolving the kidnapping plot with Mickey, and things take a turn for the unexpected as Melanie winds up in Detroit, too. It’s then that we get to see what the film’s hinted at all along – that Mickey is strong and smart, and can take care of herself and her affairs just fine, thank you very much. Watching Aniston’s obvious enjoyment of playing a character that turns the tables on everyone and gets her own due in the end is delightful, and ends the film on a high note. It leaves the audience rooting for Mickey and celebrating her, and it’s a shame that more of the film wasn’t spent this way, too.

Is Life of Crime worth watching just for the last fifteen minutes? Not particularly, no. But if you do find yourself seeing it, and you’re not overly impressed, take heart: at least the ending’s lots of fun.

RATING: C+

Life of Crime closed out the Toronto International Film Festival. It is expected to be picked up and distributed by Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. “Life of Crime” Giveaway | The Hudsucker - August 25, 2014

    […] Read the rest of our writer Janna Jeffrey’s review here.  […]

Leave A Reply [Invalid Emails Will Be Marked As Spam]

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: