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4.6 out of 5 stars
My Life
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 5, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully" - Samuel Johnson

Michael Keaton gives an effective and heart-felt performance as Bob Jones, a young, successful PR executive married to a beautiful woman (Nicole Kidman) who is expecting their first child. The bottom falls out of his life when he is diagnosed with a fatal illness, and only given months to live. He is forced to exam his life that he's really just been rushing through. Bob Jones not only has never stopped to smell the roses; he hasn't even noticed that they are there at all.

'My Life' is a realistic portrayl of what must go through one's mind when one is brought up short by such stunning news. Although the topic is certainly depressing, it is something we will all one day face. This is how one man deals with the terribly bad hand he has been dealt. Especially poignant is the fact that not only won't he probably be around to help raise his child, but he might not even make it long enough to see his child born. Heart-wrenching.

In several pivotal scenes, Jones decides to hope for a miracle, and visits an Asian healer (Haing Ngor who starred in 'The Killing Fields') who tells him that he has too much anger and hurt in him. Jones resists the whole notion of exploring how he got to where he is, at least for a while. His anger at his family is one point of anger he must struggle with.

Keaton does an excellent job here. We see flashes of the actor we saw in 'Mr. Mom' and earlier movies, sort of a lovable, good-hearted guy with a funny edge to him. His Bob Jones evolves slowly and realistically from a man who is stunned and angry, to a man determined to let his child know who he is. Ngor also plays the right note as a practioner who can't cure his patient, but perhaps can help him in his last journey.

A potentially maudlin, down-beat subject is handled with just the right amount of empathy and gentleness and with a light touch.

Highly recommended. Very highly recommended if you've had such a scare, are living with a terminal illness, or have had a loved one deal with such issues.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I am a blood/cancer specialist (for 25 years), and have always been put-off by most of Hollywood's attempts to portray medical-related drama on the big screen. Scores of such attempts have always seemed to me to be overly-forced efforts to wring some emotional impact from the audience, by over-done acting and grandiose "life-and-death" scenes, as if everything that happens in medicine is so different from everyday life. The simple, daily human drama that I have been priviledged to witness in my work has always struck me as something that would make a much better movie than anything Hollywood has done.
"My Life" , in my opinion, is one bright, shining exception to the rule. I saw this film when it first came out in the theatres, and just recently bought a DVD for home use- and after watching it again just last night, felt compelled to offer this review.

The story line is that of a young man (Keaton) diagnosed with incurable kidney cancer, spread to his lungs. He's a work-a-holic executive type in Los Angeles, with his wife (Kidman) pregnant with their first child. While he actively seeks out all conventional medical therapies for his disease, and continues to work (and keep his diagnosis from friends and even his own family), the disease progresses- and early on he is racked with anger and denial, aggravated by his emotional and physical estrangement from his family back in Detroit. He begins to video-tape himself, with practical (and frequently both hilarious and insightful) suggestions for living life, in order that his newborn child will know who his/her father was- hence the "My Life" title. The stages of disease progression are shown unsparingly and in a very matter-of-fact way, and for once in the movies, we see a patient who actually doesn't get MORE attractive, as he is dying. At the insistence of his wife, Keaton reluctantly begins to see a Chinese "faith-healer", and the several scenes involved with this are also rather insightful, as regards what true healing is all about.

But the impact of this movie goes well beyond the compelling and well-written plot.

First and foremost, this movie more than any other seems believable, seems real.....in no small part due to the exceptional screenwriting and acting. Though the two leads (Michael Keaton and Nichole Kidman) are clearly established, big-time movie stars, one never gets the feeling that you are watching big-time movie stars acting out a part: they say things and do things that real people do, when confronting a serious illness, and the imminent prospect of one's mortality. Bravo to the screenwriters for giving these exceptional actors believable things to say, and bravo to the actors for conveying the incredible emotions that they do, both through their words and their body language. In most movies where there are a lot of "tear-jerking" scenes I get ultimately uncomfotable, but not here. Every scene in this movie, from riotous laughter to the deepest sorrow, rings absolutely true. I know, because I see and hear the same from things I am witness to personally every day.

But there's more to this movie than just the medical story- it's also a powerful story of forgiveness, and also an almost Wordsworthian tribute to the lost innocence of childhood. The flashback scenes of Keaton revisiting the home of his childhood touches so many familiar buttons, that anyone who has done the same in their life will surely be moved to tears- and tears mixed with sadness, longing, and even joy. As Wordsworth wrote: "Though nothing can bring back the hour.....of splendour in the grass....of glory in the flower....we will grieve not, rather find.....strength in what remains behind." The scenes in this movie about Keaton's childhood have this wonderful, longing, and lyrical quality- never melodramatic or overly-sentimental either- another tribute to the filmakers.
The Chinese "faith-healer" in the movie seemed to me an allegorical figure: a means to convey the ultimate truth about serious illness and death- that real healing is not of the body, but of the mind. We all die physically one day, but worse than this is the mental death we so often die daily, through the diseases of anger, denial, selfishness, apathy, and fear.

The musical score (by John Barry) adds to every scene, and is among the more poignant and lyrical soundtracks I've ever heard in a movie. I own a copy of the soundtrack, and by itself it is a moving work of art.

I give this movie 5 stars, without reservation. If you've never seen it, and even if you don't go for "medical dramas", see this one. You won't regret it.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 1999
Format: VHS Tape
Bruce Joel Rubin won an Oscar for writing "Ghost" (a film I kinda liked) and has also scribed "Jacob's Ladder" and "Deep Impact". Yet here, in his only directorial feature, he paints a picture of inner turmoil and redemption so poignant that you'll bawl your eyes out (like I did). Released the same year as the hyped-up Tom Hanks AIDS drama "Philadelphia", "My Life" proves to be a much better film in that instead of presenting a stereotype and asking us to sympathize with him because it was revolutionary according to Hollywood standards, Rubin takes a theme which is relatively familiar to cinema, adds the twist of the man videotaping his own life, and asks us to share the psychological pain the man is going through. I do not believe I have ever seen Michael Keaton in a better role than this; the camera lingers on his face through many shots, such as one where he has just viewed a colleague's cold-hearted description of him, and another where he's staring into a mirror. There's a wiseacre brilliance to Keaton's acting style, and one thing I've noticed about him through the years is how he plays devoted father-types: "Mr. Mom", "One Good Cop", "Multiplicity". None of these movies showcase Keaton's talent of emotional hurt beneath a wisecracking exterior like "My Life" does, however, and perhaps that's just as well. The film proceeds through his cancer by steps: denial, anger, acceptance, etc. And yet the film doesn't feel like an AA meeting. The late, great Haing S. Ngor provides a Zen type of philosophy as a faith healer, and his advice to Keaton in the movie leads to a subplot involving Keaton's blue-collar parents that gives the film an additional layer of meaning. The Ukranian wedding and reception reminded me of "The Deer Hunter" in the fact that the culture of the characters define who they are and are given greater force in regards to the final tragedy. The most moving aspect of the film involves Keaton's search for forgiveness from his father, who is shown in the film as a chain-smoker perhaps as an ironic twist that his son is the one with the cancer. This motif is continued during the final ten minutes as the father flicks his lighter on and off while his son lie dying in the next room, unable to smoke a cigarette. This film received mixed reviews from film critics when it was first released (compared to the raving they did for "Philadelphia"), yet as time moves on, I believe this film will move more people in the end than Hanks'. The final realization of the backyard circus near the end of the film is one of the most moving examples of the "Good things happen to those who wait" virtues that I've ever seen captured on film, and the utter inevitability of the father-son reconciliation is held back for just so long and so perfectly understated that it ranks with "Field of Dreams" as a testament to the final fruits of fatherhood. "My Life" also includes a beautiful score by John Barry, the same man who wrote the music for "Born Free", "Out of Africa", "Dances with Wolves", and "Cry the Beloved Country". His music for this film ranks among his best and is regularly featured on news shows whenever they want to evoke sentiment. The whole movie has the weight of tragedy over it, but it's exhilarating that the film can make you care so much. The film's example of a loving husband-and-wife is perfectly illustrated in the shot where Keaton and Nicole Kidman gently dance together in the middle of an amusement park as people walk by worried about their own minute problems. This is a beautiful movie.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2005
Format: DVD
"My Life" is a movie that goes beyond simple entertainment. It actually stops you dead in your tracks, and casues you to reflect deeply on your own life's purpose. This movie will help your remember and cherish what's most important.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I remember seeing My Life when it came out ten years ago and thinking that it was a wonderful film. When I purchased it recently on DVD the film itself had lost none of its poignancy.

The plot of the film has relatively few twists and turns. At the beginning of the film Bob Jones (played by Michael Keaton) has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Jones's wife, Gail (Nicole Kidman) is pregnant with their first child, so Bob decides to start filming a series of videotapes that can be shown to the son he knows he is unlikely to ever see.

Gail eventually also gets Bob to visit a Chinese healer (Hiang Ngor), who apparently is using a mix of traditional remedies and psychology to help Bob. This is the point where the film could have gotten extremely corny, but director Bruce Joel Rubin does not overdo the mysticism and avoids taking the easy way out by having Bob make a sudden and dramatic recovery. The healer is essentially just a vehicle to move us into Bob's personal history and conflicts with his siblings and brother and is extremely well done.

This is a superbly acted film. This film stars Nichole Kidman before she made Nichole Kidman films and a very versitile Michael Keaton, who was coming off of the Batman series. Their strong performances are buttressed by supporting roles from Bradley Whitford (The West Wing), Queen Latifah (Chicago), Michael Constantine (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Richard Schiff (The West Wing) and Rebecca Schull (Wings). It is an extremely deep cast.

This is an emotional film and is, at the end of the day, about someone with cancer, so be prepared to be crying by the end. However, instead of being two hours of tension, the film is crafted so that after a particularly dramatic sequence you have a section that includes some humor, mostly involving Bob's guidance to his son. Because the end, when it comes, is not totally unexpected, you don't finish the film feeling drained; instead, the ultimate message behind the plot is one of hope and redemption.

Overall, the film is excellent if you like drama - if you are looking for a popcorn film, this may not be for you. Sadly, there are very few extras on the DVD. However, if you want to see a well-acted, well-written, well-acted and mostly serious film, you can do far worse than My Life.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This movie sneaks up on you. I saw it with my girlfriend and therefore, as she saw it before many times, knew the plot. I thought Nicole Kidman did a fine job but was miscast and could not therefore connect with many of the necessary nuances of her character and their relationship. It had some powerful things to say about family realtionships, the doctor/patient relationship, hope, forgiveness, the actual nature and expression of love, the craft and the art of letting go as opposed to the contrivances of such, and the love a man has for his family, his wife, and his child.
But all those themes, when brought together in concert with some virtuosic moments of acting, have a synergistic effect. Michael Keaton's performance and that of the supporting cast take the power of the powerful themes they are given responsibility for and say something, do something, with such poignancy as to actually rise above the inherent weaknesses in the script and the cinematography. They turn the movie itself into a symbol of what or who one loves and how one should love: taking all the flaws not just into consideration, but loving them as part of what makes them- and life- beautiful. That is why, I believe, it is impossible for people not to have seen the many flaws in the movie, but still feel little need to point them out or dwell on them. By the time this movie comes close to connecting with the major source of pain and/or crises in your personal life, you are already sold and have started falling in love with some or most of the characters. Needless to say, when it does connect for you... I began watching the movie feeling only mildly moved (while my girlfriend cried, again), but wept quietly for about an hour after it was over (long after she was done).
A very special, poignant film.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2005
Format: DVD
I watched this movie yesterday for the first time and I was completely blown away by the magnitude of Michael Keaton's performance. I honestly think that he should have been a contender for an Oscar in 1993 but do not even recall seeing the movie in theaters back then.How does a great movie like this get lost in the shuffle?? The entire premise of the movie is to make people think about the quality of life while they are living it and hopefully not to wait until dying to make things right with family and loved ones. I know I came away with valuable wisdom after seeing this beautiful film.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2003
Format: DVD
This movie is very good, but I have to admit that you have to be slightly masochistic in order to watch it. You realize just by reading the back of the DVD cover that the movie is going to be a tear jerker, and it doesn't disappoint in reaching this objective. This movie WILL make you sad.
Michael Keaton plays a young and affluent corporate executive named Bob Jones who finds out that he only has a matter of months before he will die of cancer. Nicole Kidman plays his wife, Gail Jones, who is pregnant with their first child. Knowing that he doesn't have much longer to live, Bob faces the challenge of making sure that his unborn baby will know who his father was, as well as the added task of restoring his ties with his own parents and brother. He uses his camcorder to make videos for his baby. In these videos Bob covers many topics ranging from how to make an entrance into a room, how to play basketball, how to shave, and the obligatory discussion about sex. One of the most touching tapes Bob makes is when he talks to his child about how to feel if Gail ever decides to start dating again or get re-married. There are also some very poignant moments when Bob settles his anger and hurt feelings with his parents and his brother.
Michael Keaton does a solid acting job in this movie. You'll admire the fact that he's high-strung and fights to maintain his health for as long as he can, along with the fact that he never laments his fate but simply braces for it. Nicole Kidman is also very good in her role as a supportive wife. Also worthy of mentioning is the performance by Haing S. Ngor as an allopathic doctor. These "alternative medicine" doctors are often portrayed in movies as people who make outrageous promises, but his character was different. I appreciated the fact that he eventually conceded that he couldn't help Bob fight his cancer, and the best thing Bob could do was to simply "get [his] house in order" before he died.
If you suffer from depression (like me), this movie isn't for you. Don't watch it unless you're ready to possibly shed a few tears. Though I hate to feel sad, I'd have to say that I enjoyed this movie very much.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on February 7, 2005
Format: DVD
Nicole Kidman has had a handful of great films, MY LIFE being one of them. Nicole plays the wife of Michael Keaton, a busy executive who learns that he has cancer. He is given only months to live and decides to video tape "advice" to his yet unborn child. Both Keaton and Kidman convincingly portray a couple dealing with the situation, and it is one of those films that will bring tears to your eye. I first saw it in 1993 and didn't think that much of it then (I can't remember why). Watching it 10 years later made me appreciate it more and notice the fine performances.

This is a movie worth buying. However, the DVD is disappointingly presented in pan/scan. Why the distributor did not take advantage of the original widescreen aspect ratio that the film is available in, is beyond me. I dislike pan/scan because much image is lost.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2006
Format: DVD
I love movies. All kinds. But this particular film holds a special interest for me. When I first saw this movie, it was about 10 years after it was made. I had heard about the movie, heard that Michael Keaton's character dies of cancer. So I was a little reluctant to watch a movie about someone dying of cancer when I had just lost my father to the disease. The same exact form of cancer Michael Keaton's character is fighting in the movie. This particular form of cancer is not as common and highly uncurable, so naturally, I was a little surprised that this film depicted this type of cancer. But I have to say that the screenwriter for this film did his homework and did it well. The film does an excellent job of depicting the effects of kidney cancer and the path the disease takes.

I am confident that anyone who has dealt with the fight against cancer will relate to this film, and recommend it, as do I. Even if you have never had an experience with cancer, I would still recommend that you watch this film. It might give you some insight on the complications with cancer and the effects it has on family and the lives of those involved. Not matter how many times I see this movie, it gets to me every time. I highly recommend this film.
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