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Thursday, November 6, 2003

Mort-ifying

Movie: My Life Without Me

Posted on Thu, Nov 6, 2003 at 4:00 AM

*1/2
Our Rating: 1.50

Sarah Polley, eternally wan and depressive, started her career in 1987's forgettable but aptly named "Prettykill." In 1998's "Last Night," she blew her brains out. Right now, she's working on the remake of "Dawn of the Dead." If you want a non-goth, perpetually premortem Gen Xer, Polley's your girl.

In "My Life Without Me," first-time director/writer Isabel Coixet's alternately bizarre and painfully rote 30-days-to-die weepy, Polley gets what some actors would consider the ultimate -- a film-long death scene. But Polley eschews entertaining histrionics (or even overt indications of recent cardiac activity) in favor of her usual not-much-to-offer. Even more annoying is the sense that Polley can act, if only someone could wake her up.

Polley portrays working mother Ann in the limp, toneless yet vaguely whiney fashion that obviously appeals to someone, because she keeps getting cast in movies. Ann lives an amorphously dull life in a trailer in the backyard of her sour mom's house with two cute kids and hunky, working-class husband Don (Scott Speedman). One of Ann's first observations in the film is that "nobody's normal." You can't help but agree, as her mother is played by Deborah Harry.

Before Ann can observe much more, she learns from a cadaverous-looking doctor that she's riddled with cancer and has two or so months left. This being Polley, she doesn't react much to this rather grim news and opts not to tell anybody; instead, she makes a to-do list.

High up on her list is to find a man and have him fall in love with her, and then she can die. Before the ink dries on her stationery, she conveniently runs into Lee (current "it" boy Mark Ruffalo, dueling with Polley for sheer inexpressiveness).

When not sitting in Lee's car in the rain, listening to the French Canadian version of Portishead, she decides to get her hair done by a girl who's into Milli Vanilli, but opts against it in a tense moment. Then she checks off the next item on her list: Find a woman for her husband to fall in love with.

Luckily, right next door to their trailer, there is a depressed nurse with extremely large breasts who's also named Ann (Leonor Watling). In the film's near-psychotronic peak of pointless weirdness, Ann II launches into a monologue about how she delivered a pair of Siamese twins to whom she sang songs until they died quite horribly.

Is it really that bad? Yes. It's so bad that there's a scene in which the shoppers and staff of a supermarket burst into a purposefully bad ballet as a symbol of ... something. Granted, someone like Pedro Almodóvar, who produced the film, could inject some kitschy wit into such hooey, but Coixet is just drearily earnest. Shot with a handheld camera in overly extended takes, "My Life Without Me" seems like a morbid version of your usual N.Y.C. indie production, except it's Canadian, which means it's not only silly, dull and depressing, but the weather is always lousy, too.

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