L!fe Happens pokes fun at the notion of young, semi-irresponsible people getting pregnant; it’s the perfect way to cinematically celebrate Snooki’s forthcoming bundle of joisy. Luckily, this film skips over the prenatal mania that we’ve already experienced in comedies like Knocked Up and Baby Mama and gets right to the (scary) good stuff—the actual existence and sheer reality of a child. Unlike Knocked Up, Kat Coiro’s first feature film does not deliver a consistent or coherent flow of comedy or drama. The writing is best described as manic-depressive—the highs are high, the lows, low. Thankfully, some of the performances help make the film a “good enough” comedy that also manages to express a true concern for the children of the world—and the children who give birth to them.
The film opens with Kim (Krysten Ritter) and Deena (Kate Bosworth) engaging in what will later prove a life-altering argument over who gets the last condom. (Deena wins.) The next time we see the pair, they are in a car jamming to the only song white girls should jam to in a comedy, Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty.” Pan to the back seat, where baby makes three. Kim, formerly one-third of a carefree trio of single ladies (Rachel Bilson plays the other friend, half-heartedly delivering a few badly written lines), has given birth to the ultimate buzz kill—a beautiful baby boy. A few breastfeeding fails (in the gas station, at the mall) and her (social) life appears to be over.
When the baby’s father skips off a year later (he’s a surfer, so he’s awfully busy), Kim decides to re-enter the dating scene. She meets a hot guy named Nicolas (Geoff Stults) and, necessarily, lies about being a mother. The film’s plot is framed by her various attempts to sustain the lie. Although L!fe Happens has a lighthearted, casual tone, it would have been nice to see an actual connection between Kim and Nicholas. Instead, Bosworth’s über-feminist Deena—without looking to—develops the only legitimate romance in the story. (Weeds fans will be thrilled to see Justin Kirk playing Deena’s love interest, Henri.)
Kim makes plenty of mistakes (one especially horrifying one) as she tries to figure out just what neo-Freudians meant by “the good enough mother.” Along the way, she gets some questionable advice from friends without children and yoga moms without a clue. When all of her relationships begin to suffer, she resolves to make a change for the better.
Despite its faults—the script is so clunky that even with Kirk and a great cameo from Jason Biggs, the comedic timing of the piece is just off sometimes—the majority of L!fe Happens is an accurate and engaging reflection of young, single motherhood. In the tradition of the Apatow canon (along with Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody and others), Coiro attempts to de-normalize and de-naturalize the family by pointing to the insanity and hilarity of the whole endeavor. She understands that something as scary and as bizarre as young parenthood should only be viewed through the lens of comedy. Such insights—especially if accompanied by more attention to form and a little more risk-taking in plot—bode well for the quality of Coiro’s future projects.
Director: Kat Coiro
Writer: Kat Coiro & Krysten Ritter
Starring: Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson
Release Date: Apr. 13, 2012