DVD REVIEW: The Good Life
Though billed as a Dramatic Comedy and nominated for the 2007 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, Writer/Director/Former Teen Pro Skater Steve Berra’s somber film, The Good Life, weighs more towards depressing drama rather than any trace of comedy. Set in the director’s own childhood stomping grounds of Nebraska, in the bleak urban expanse of a college football obsessed town. Stuffed full with recognizable actors, both contemporary and veteran, notably Bill Paxton who also wore the executive producer hat, the film begins with the main character committing suicide. From there the story builds a portrait of this troubled young man named Jason Prayer. Played by Mark Webber, who acted alongside the director earlier in his career, the character is portrayed as an awkward outsider who doesn’t seem to fit in with the rabid football centric culture that surrounds him. What’s more, his father has just committed suicide. Jason seems stuck on a road to nowhere, his only solace an escape to an old theatre, where he helps an aging senile manager show classic era films. Within this sanctuary, Jason meets Frances (played by Zooey Deschanel), a person who understands him. A romance begins, revealing Frances to be unstable and on medication, but Jason feels his life getting better with her. It turns out, just as Jason doesn’t know his family, he doesn’t really know Francis, causing him to make a life altering decision.
A depressing, dark film, The Good Life has few bright spots, though Chris Kline’s portrayal as the aggressive rapping has-been football player might be comic, if it weren’t so violent, negative, and short lived. The stand out performance of the piece is Zooey Deschanel, who plays a quieter take on her usual wide-eyed, manic but loveable free spirit as Frances. The most memorable scene would be where Ms. Deschanel shows off a talent for husky voiced singing. The Good Life is a depressing, poorly communicated film with some good performances, but the downer subject matter showed up a decade too late.