The Most Panicked Surprise-You’re-a-Parent Reaction Since Tom Selleck

10/08/2010 4:00 AM |

Life As We Know It
Directed by Greg Berlanti

Uptight Martha Stewart protégé Holly (Katherine Heigl) is a successful yet lonely caterer when she meets Eric Messer (Josh Duhamel). Messer, who goes by his last name for the entirety of the movie, makes a living as a cameraman for the Atlanta Hawks, enjoys riding his motorcycle, making out with hired help, and luckily for the salvation of this movie, jogging in a revealing tank top. The two have been set up on a blind date by mutual friends Alison (Christina Hendricks) and Peter (Hayes Macarthur). Though Holly and Messer immediately hate each other, they continue to be enmeshed in each other’s lives as they attend Alison and Peter’s wedding, decorate the tree at Alison and Peter’s Christmas party, and participate in other activities that white people in Atlanta do.

Life As We Know It should be the title of a movie about a love triangle between Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson and Steve Martin with Viagra jokes abounding, but we’re stuck with Holly and Messer, two people too young to have fun being at a crossroads in life. Since we all know what’s about to happen, the first half-hour drags while we wait for Alison and Peter die in a horrible car accident, leaving Holly and Messer as legal guardians of their one-year-old baby. For a brief moment, Holly and Messer share a hug, deal with Child Services, and have overacted surprise-you’re-a-parent panic attacks similar to Tom Selleck’s in Three Men and a Baby, before finally seeing how much they care about each other and the family they’ve been forced to built and hurriedly, passionately doing the nasty on top of their dead friends’ down comforter.

In the meantime, Holly consistently doubts Messer’s devotion to her and the life the two have been forced to build, and when he abandons Holly and child for a better job in faraway Phoenix, the viewer has plenty of reason to do the same. We feel for Holly being the only one to raise a baby that isn’t hers, but then, her Home & Garden fembot demeanor gives Messer no reason to warm up to her—until she takes a lesson from Meryl Streep and cooks dinner for him, and then all of a sudden she’s the love of his life.

But, in another nod to the kind of middle aged rom-coms your parents buy on DVD, Holly and Messer find a stash of their dead friends’ once-a-year pot, making it the only thing they use of theirs besides the down comforter. Katherine Heigl proves that her acting chops go beyond playing an uptight bitch who is funny after a few glasses of Pinot: she’s also funny after a few hits of Mary Jane.

One difference between Life As We Know It and movies like It’s Complicated or Something’s Gotta Give, though, is that the eight scenes of Duhamel jogging, stretching, and using his tank top to wipe his sweat are much more enjoyable than watching Alec Baldwin wheeze as he climbs a flight of stairs. Still, Duhamel has significantly more depth than his in last lead performance, in When In Rome. He’s able to remain convincing as a confused but not heartless frat boy who is torn between career and family, even in an emotional scene that he performs in a carnival setting with his face painted like a cat/ (It’s not easy to portray the struggle of a simple guy wanting to be more of a man while sporting yellow and orange eyeshadow.) The next station in this newly mature bro’s progress? Transformers 3.

Opens October 8