Life as We Know It
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Sophie's godparents hate each other. Well, perhaps hate isn't the right word. Abhor? Detest? Loathe? Let's just say they don't get along.
It didn't help that Holly and Messer dated briefly before Sophie came along—and when I say briefly, I mean their first and only date lasted almost long enough for Holly to start the car. When their respective best friends (Sophie's parents) got married, Messer and Holly naturally served as Best Man and Maid of Honor���and the wedding naturally culminated with Holly pummeling Messer with her bouquet.
They've been forced to see each other plenty since. Sophie's parents throw a lot of parties. And that sort of prolonged contact has improved their relations somewhat—from bitter repugnance to frosty tolerance. They play nice for their friends' sake, and for Sophie's.
That's good. Because they're going to need all the tolerance they can muster for what happens next: Sophie's parents die in a car crash, and a lawyer tells Holly and Messer that their friends named them—both of them—as Sophie's godparents.
After the two have finished hyperventilating, the lawyer says it's up to them whether they honor their friends' wishes. "This is a big deal," he adds. "This is a child."
It is a big deal. Raising Sophie, after all, means more than setting aside a little extra cash each month for diapers and strained carrots. It means moving, changing career tracks, upending a life's worth of plans.
Oh, and it means they'll have to deal with each other. Every day. In the same house.
I did mention they hate each other, right?
Parenthood is hard. Becoming a parent unexpectedly is, I think, exponentially harder. All new parents have a pretty steep learning curve, of course, but most have a little opportunity to prepare—brushing up by listening to a few Focus on the Family radio shows, that sort of thing. If you don't have a lot of prep time, that new life can leave a new parent feeling absolutely terrified.
Life as We Know It captures that sense of terror. "It's really hard, and I don't know what I'm doing," Holly says in a moment of disarming honesty. And when a judge remits Sophie into Holly and Messer's care, Messer's pretty incredulous at the fact that they'll just let him walk out of the courtroom with a baby. "How do you know we're not drug dealers or pimps?" He asks. Both are completely unprepared for parenthood, and it shows. Often.
But all that terror suggests how important parenthood is to them. And while they struggle—sometimes mightily—with the sacrifices they're required to make as parents, they still make those sacrifices. Holly cancels an expansion project at her pastry shop not once, but twice. Messer, after initially accepting a great career opportunity in Phoenix, eventually walks away from the gig—knowing his place is with Sophie and Holly.
"I don't just miss you or her," he tells Holly. "I miss us." He says that, as imperfect as they all are, they somehow make a family. And despite all the heartache and sacrifice, they're both better off for it.
The film suggests there's something a bit magical about raising a child—how we can search our whole lives for meaning but find it only after we focus on someone else for a change. It's a simple but profound philosophy, found not just at the heart of family, but at the heart of Christianity, too.
Sophie's birth father catches a couple of teens with a baggie of marijuana and tells them they're going to be in big trouble once he informs their parents. "Please don't," one says. "My dad's a pastor."
Messer is a womanizer for most of the film—a hunk a hunk o' burnin' love who causes almost every women (and at least one man) to swoon in his presence. A married neighbor, for example, struts out in her nightie to ogle Messer's pre-run stretch. (She hastily adjusts her breasts before he can see her.)
Messer takes full advantage, bedding at least three women. We see him kiss and make out with one of them before she takes his shirt off in the hallway. Later, he bemoans losing his sex-filled life to become a dad. "I had it all, and it was awesome!" he tells Holly. To adjust to his new reality, he says he's picking up new conquests at the supermarket—with Sophie's help. Women stare at men with babies, he says, like "a guy'll stare at a woman with a great rack."
On Messer's infamous date with Holly, he tells her that the best he can hope for is that they'll "get drunk and hook up," shortly before making what Holly refers to as a "booty call" to another woman. We see him hold a woman's rear, apparently pinch another's and cavort in his underwear. Holly shows up in the bathtub quite a bit. (We see her legs and shoulders.) She wears only a towel at one point. She and other women often wear low-cut blouses and dresses.
References are made to male body parts and condoms. Rude comments are made about having sex and not having sex. Strippers and "tranny hookers" make their way into conversations. A joke is cracked about what would happen if a tweenage babysitter were old enough to have sex with the baby's father. Gary, one half of a homosexual couple, tells a neighbor that he and his partner "used to have sex all the time." And they're later shown holding hands. Holly is propositioned over the phone by another woman.
When Messer leaves Holly and Sophie for a bit, it appears as though Holly invites another man to live with her.
Messer drops the baby on the floor when trying to put her in a baby carrier. Holly accidentally propels Messer's motorcycle into the street, where it gets run over by a bus. Several characters jokingly discuss hurting or killing someone.
Crude or Profane Language
As a lullaby to Sophie, both Holly and Messer sing a Radiohead song containing the word "h‑‑‑." The s-word shows up twice. God's name is misused at least 30 times. There's one abuse of Jesus' name. Milder profanity includes "d‑‑n" and "a‑‑."
Drug and Alcohol Content
People drink beer and margaritas. A pediatrician gives Holly an interesting prescription after hearing how stressed out she is: "1-2 glasses of Pinot Noir, as needed." She decides to follow his advice and subsequently finds herself snockered when a social worker comes for a surprise visit.
When Sophie's dad busts the teens for having pot, he takes it for himself. And we learn (but don't see) that he and his wife smoked marijuana once or twice a year. Messer uncovers an unused bag of dope in their bedroom, and Messer and Holly decide to make brownies with it. They eat several, developing a whole new appreciation for The Wiggles in the process. The next morning, the social worker comes by again and nearly eats one of the brownies. A couple of delivery guys seem to be pretty stoned. Someone makes a reference to crack cocaine.
Other Negative Elements
One of Messer's co-workers describes marriage thusly: "Imagine a prison. Then don't change anything." Messer, in desperate need of a babysitter while he goes to work, leaves Sophie with his favorite cabbie, and both Messer and Holly seem to lose track of the youngster on occasion.
Much is made of Sophie's bodily functions. Messer, playing with Sophie in a bouncy castle, gets spewed with projectile vomit. When Holly and Messer change Sophie's diaper for the first time, Messer describes it as both a scene from Slumdog Millionaire and a "poop suit." Holly cleans Sophie up but gets some of it on her cheek. It's still there when the neighbors come by for a visit. Sophie ruins Messer's favorite hat, if you follow my drift.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.
Lately, Hollywood's been twisting that old schoolyard rhyme like a set of iPod earbuds in the hands of an 8-year-old. In many films these days, the baby comes first, not last. And the results—from the obnoxious The Back-up Plan to the surprisingly sweet The Switch—have been mixed.
This film falls somewhere in the middle as this new romcom trope gathers momentum. Parents will see themes and scenes that'll likely resonate with them. Life as We Know It may feel at times like life as they know it.
But that doesn't mitigate the fact that our two protagonists often don't make very good role models. No apologies are ever made for Messer's skirt chasing. Holly's invitation to another man to share her home and her bed—apparently just weeks after Messer leaves—earns little mention. When Holly and Messer take a roll in the hay together, the film uses it as a sign that both "like" each other more now than they once did. But is it a sign of commitment? A sign that either has truly bought into this makeshift family for the long haul? Hardly. A short time later, Messer takes off for Phoenix, leaving Holly and Sophie behind.
While family retains an aura of the sacred here, sex slips further into the realm of the merely biological. Nothing new in that, of course. That's part of Life as Too Many People Know It these days. Which is a shame.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Katherine Heigl as Holly Berenson; Josh Duhamel as Eric Messer; Josh Lucas as Sam; Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett as Sophie
Greg Berlanti ( )
October 8, 2010
February 8, 2011