1993 Directed by Bruce Joel Rubin. Starring Michael Keaton, Nicole Kidman, Michael Constantine, Haing S. Ngor.
REVIEWED By Pamela Bruce, Fri., Nov. 19, 1993
Teary melodramas involving the endurance and purity of true love despite the presence of an untimely death often translate into profits at the box office because, let's face it, audiences occasionally want a good cry at the movies. And now, screenwriter Rubin (who wrote the script for the tearjerker hit Ghost) seems to be trying to carve a niche for himself as an auteur in this genre of films and gearing them especially for the thirty-to-forty-something set. In My Life, Rubin not only wears the writer's hat, but he also makes his directorial debut in a story about an affluent public relations executive Bob (Keaton) who is terminally ill with cancer. Added to the tragedy of his illness is the fact that his wife (Kidman) is expecting their first child. Both decide to keep his illness a secret from his co-workers, but Bob especially wants to keep it from his estranged family, who are blue-collar Ukrainian immigrants living in Detroit. Isolating his emotions from his wife, and any potential solace and comfort from friends and family, Bob instead escapes into the world of video. He takes it upon himself to make a series of videotapes of himself addressing his soon-to-be-born child as a poignant legacy of himself. Rubin may have bitten off more than he can chew by taking on both writing and directorial duties, for details in the narrative and characterizations don't ring true when it comes to the reality of cancer, nor does Keaton's character come across as very likable to begin with. With respect to the reality of cancer and chemotherapy, Rubin depicts Bob as having all of his hair intact, which is an untruth since chemo leaves cancer patients almost always completely bald during therapy. As for the character of Bob, Rubin paints him as being locked tight behind a wall of self-absorption to the point of distancing the viewer from feeling sympathetic towards his plight (which is instead replaced by annoyance and boredom as Bob constantly videotapes himself and just about any living thing that moves during two-thirds of the film). The overall narrative seems to drag itself out like a lengthy illness -- you keep waiting for Keaton's character to hurry up and die already so as to put the audience out of the misery of having to sit through this overdrawn-out excuse for a melodrama. But despite the limitations of Rubin's film, his underlying message manages to come through loud and clear: Through the false sense of immortality that affluence brings, the fact remains that even Yuppies can't cheat an early death.