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This Is My Life

Directed by Alan Dienstag. Starring Christopher Dienstag, Malcolm Cohen, Monica T. Caldwell, Kathrine Schutzman, Nadarien.

REVIEWED By Kathleen Maher, Fri., March 6, 1992

The title of this movie can be said a number of different ways, but after seeing This Is My Life, it's clear that the title should be delivered as a petulant whine. Kavner plays an aspiring comedian who suddenly has a shot at the big time. It's just too bad she has two smart-mouthed children who think they are owed a certain amount of their mother's time. Writer Nora Ephron wrote a hilarious description of the unreasonable and reasonable demands of love in Heartburn and, as a scriptwriter, she had great success with When Harry Met Sally... and Silkwood. On her first time out as a director, however, Ephron fails to make us care for these people. Kavner's career calls her out of town, so the best she can do for her kids is leave them with her newfound friends from the comedy clubs. Her career proceeds smoothly as clockwork, the only conflict comes from the children who, in addition to resenting being left with a bunch of neurotic humans for babysitters, are also outraged that their mother mines their mutual experiences for material, hangs out with a chain-smoking Carrie Fisher and finally, falls in love. Oddly, Fisher and Aykroyd are completely wasted, with Aykroyd getting the least lines. He has to get as much mileage as he can out of his character's odd quirk of eating paper (a quirk, I have read, that belongs to a famous agent in New York). There are laughs but they are not the kind that are developed and built upon. They come as sharp staccato bursts between fairly boring exchanges that simply escalate in tone and volume but not in wit. Likewise, Kavner takes a similar approach to stand-up comedy and when we see her on stage she is not very funny. As is clearly illustrated here, an ability in one arena of comedy -- say, writing in the case of Ephron, does not translate automatically to the screen. It's too bad, because this is a group with a lot of ability.
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