When I Live My Life Over Again full movie review - Mingus
In an interview promoting One More Time, Christopher Walken was asked, "What motivates you to act?" His response: a long, bizarre story, full of unfinished thoughts, about getting a root canal from a dentist in a suit. Its moral? In Walken's own words, "It's what I do."
It's this same kind of belligerent resolution which drives One More Time into existence. It's a story about a deadbeat dad reevaluating his relationship with his broken daughter in his silver years. It's a parable of the ripple effects the opulence of the entertainment industry has on those even tangentially surrounding it. It's one of those movies that employs adjectives like 'flawed,' 'real,' and 'complex' to defend its characters, when they're all really just synonyms for 'dislikable.' In short: it's a film we've seen countless times before already.
But, as the film entertains, there can still be vague comfort and pleasantness in revisiting a familiar, stale routine, if only for the kitsch appeal. Appropriately, writer/director Robert Edwards has his mind firmly mired in the past. He consistently employs overlapping dialogue and jump cuts in conversation scenes between his film's jaded, disenfranchised characters, as if a carryover from the 90s 'Mumblecore' movement holding on for dear life.
He's also certainly not subtle in orchestrating how broken his protagonists are, as they take turns chewing each other out for their sordid existences. Walken's former crooner is a slumping, defeated old man who nonchalantly traipses from affair to affair, so transfixed with glory days and his hopeful comeback that he spends his evenings editing the entry of his own Wikipedia page, when not sneaking porn to his grandson. His daughter (Amber Heard) is a snarling, cynical refugee from a collapsed post-punk band called 'Pussy Fart' (one of the film's few good laughs); she's also a recovering alcoholic having an affair with her therapist who kills time by writing ballads about how her heart "weighs 100 pounds", or making passes at her brother-in-law. Are we having fun yet?
You know your film is flagging when a viewer excitedly perks up after a transition, exclaiming "Hey! A Roomba!" True story.
Yes, the walls of tired cliché loom high, but the film, like Thomas Aquinas, squeaks by through leaning on the best. For such a stale story, Edwards sprinkles in some genuinely sparkling lines, and his cast spit them out with glee ("Starshadow's a wonderful name! What if you'd been born during my jazz period? You would've ended up named 'Mingus'"). The film's tunes, originals and covers, are thoroughly cute enough to lull the viewer into enough of a pleasant daze to ride out the predictable rodeo of conflicts and rock bottom revelations amicably. Similarly, there's a good ongoing gag in showcasing the catalogue of Walken's records through the ages, and their corresponding schizophrenic genre shifting, which helps keeps things chipper.
But, unsurprisingly, it's the cast that breathe enough life into the film to keep it passably engaging. Granted, pink-haired Amber Heard isn't the most fun lead. She's supposed to play as Kristen Stewart and sing like Lana Del Rey, but mostly just reminds of how either would be preferable to her. We easily buy her as a well- intentioned train wreck whose parentally derived self-absorption and self-pity have left her life in shambles, but it still doesn't make her likable or sympathetic.
Thankfully, Walken is here to breeze in and make things worth the while. At his worst, he's still always a pleasure to watch, and any excuse to lure him back into song and dance is still a sensational treat, context be damned. It's also kind of fresh to see him playing a genuinely d*ckish character rather than his usual lovable/evil oddballs, and Walken is careful not to downplay his character's foul, selfish life decisions and despicable parenthood. But, in counterbalancing them with his indomitable charisma and hard-etched pathos, he here offers a deceptively mature and insightful character study into why we continue to tolerate such sleaze-bags, let alone elevating them to the status of matinée idols. Edwards also mines solid dramatic support from Kelli Garner, Hamish Linklater, and Ann Magnuson as Walken's fractured but supportive family, as well as the always welcome Oliver Platt as their kindly lawyer (and no, that's not an oxymoron in this context).
Walken croons "If I'd been born in Hindustan, I'd reincarnate like the Hindus can", but there's no question that Edwards' film could have used a hefty reincarnation of its own. That said, over-familiar and uninspired as its plot may be, Walken and company are up to the challenge of keeping viewers entertained (even when competing with the mighty Roomba). So for those entranced by the prospect of hearing Walken sing and giggle at the name 'Kim Jong-Il' anew, it's, overall, worth breaking out the L-P and revising those familiar story grooves? one more time.