"Life Happens" is the rather unremarkable title for a remarkable film. The title is, of course, the sanitized version of the more appropriate title "$#!& Happens." This "bait and switch chic flic" film played to an adoring audience at Cinequest, Friday night, March 2 at the California Theater in San Jose. I was able to catch up with the two writers, one of whom starred (Krysten Ritter) and the other who directed (Kat Coiro) in the back lobby after the screening.
Best friends Kim (Krysten Ritter) and Deena (Kate Bosworth) -- and their quirky roommate Laura (Rachel Bilson) keep "life happening" -- sort of when Kim has a baby. Kim's surprise pregnancy is sort of Deena's fault because Deena took the last condom out of the communal condom box when both she and Kim needed one at the exact same moment - when they both had the luck to score on the same night. Kim's pregnancy being Deena's fault is the kind of quirky logic that plays throughout the movie and helps so beautifully define all three leads as women who aren't quite hep to self examination yet.
In this screwball comedy twist on "Three Men and a Baby." the three friends think they can go on as they have, with Mom/Girl Kim relying heavily on the support of her friends to babysit for her and even cover for her as she lies to prospective boyfriends about being a mom. But Kim is more than inconvenienced by her baby; she is giving up on her big dream (opening a shopping mall for dogs!) and has settled for her less than glamorous life as a dog walker and personal assistant to an insane doggie-rights persona appassionata who hates babies. Kim barely copes with being a single mom, has no family support save her wonderfully quirky friends and a loving but not-too-capable-due-to-extreme-old-age grandpa.
Kim is stuck as Deena and Laura move ahead in the direction of their dreams. Kim's "loser" mindset keeps her from moving forward - kid or no. It is only when she embraces fully her responsibility of being a mom that she is able to become a person in full. And it's not the fluff of motherhood that kicks it ("No greater happiness have I than being a mom" - nope), but rather the stuff of greatness kicks it when the character can say to herself: "I am where I am because of the decisions I have made." When she is able to own her responsibility, that's transformation. Is Kim ever that "on the nose" in the movie? Course not! But the filmmakers show this evolution from dependency and victimization to responsibility, with humor and finesse, making Kim a heroic character, giving her a superb arc. By accepting full responsibility for herself and her baby, she saves and deepens her closest friendships, is able to ask Grandpa for a loan, gets the "guy" of her dreams, quits the abusive job, reaches out to other moms for support and moves out on her own. All of this while eliciting laugh after laugh from the crowd at the California Theater.
"Life Happens" is the first movie for Coiro and Ritter and has had a very successful festival run. They co-wrote the script over a 3 year stretch. Kat just wrapped her 3rd film two days ago!
I had the good fortune to interview Kat and Krysten briefly after the screening. I wanted them to impart the secret to life but instead I learned that there was no magic elixir, no sudden catapult to success, no being discovered whilst folding clothes at the laundromat. Those of us who toil can take comfort that their success is the culmination of years of hard work. It didn't come easy. For those of us who don't want to take responsibility for ourselves, however, and are waiting to be discovered, we can despair for the same reason -- their success is the culmination of years of hard work! And the story gets better! The filmmakers recently secured distribution and the film will open commercially in 80 theaters in April.