The Films of Greg Berlanti
The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy
Life As We Know It
Sporadically watchable yet utterly disposable, Life As We Know It follows Katherine Heigl's Holly Berenson and Josh Duhamel's Eric Messer as they're forced to put aside their differences after they're awarded custody of their dead friends' infant daughter. It's not surprising to discover that filmmaker Greg Berlanti has spent the last several years working on unabashedly melodramatic programs like Everwood and Brothers and Sisters, as the movie possesses the feel of a rather generic network dramedy - something that's reflected in, among other things, the emphasis on sitcom-like situations, the inclusion of several almost unreasonably quirky supporting characters, and an ongoing reliance on eye-rollingly hackneyed plot devices (ie the fake break-up, the race to the airport (!), etc, etc). Heigl and Duhamel are admittedly quite charming in their respective roles, yet it's just as clear that the two actors are falling back on their previously established personas (ie she's a stuck-up control freak, while he's a fun-loving, easygoing swinger). Berlanti's middle-of-the-road sensibilities ensure that Life As We Know It ultimately becomes a blandly (and rather mindlessly) entertaining piece of work, which is no small feat, really, given that the movie is at least a half hour too long and contains a number of entirely wrong-headed and downright annoying episodes (ie Eric leaves the kid with a taxi driver while he goes to work). The end result is a mildly passable piece of work that feels like a condensed version of a garden-variety television show's first season, which undoubtedly ensures that Life As We Know It will play better on home video than it does on the big screen.
Based on a book by Becky Albertalli, Love, Simon follows Nick Robinson's title character, a closeted high schooler, as he struggles to come out to his family and core group of friends. Filmmaker Greg Berlanti, working from Elizabeth Berger and Isaac Aptaker's screenplay, has infused Love, Simon with a pervasively, perpetually affable feel that proves impossible to resist, as Berlanti delivers a briskly-paced narrative that's been augmented with a whole host of decidedly agreeable attributes - with, especially, the movie's roster of compelling performances certainly playing an integral role in confirming its success. Robinson's charismatic work as the likeable protagonist is matched by an equally capable supporting cast that includes Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel, and Katherine Langford, and it's clear, too, that Love, Simon benefits greatly from its ongoing emphasis on moments of a decidedly sweet and affecting variety (eg Simon's ongoing emails with a fellow closeted student, Simon's decision to initially come out to a close friend, etc). There is, as such, little doubt that the movie's second-half proliferation of somewhat conventional elements doesn't fare as badly as one might've feared, although it's awfully difficult to justify the apparent glee with which Berlanti employs certain less-than-fresh plot points (eg the dreaded fake break-up). Love, Simon does, however, manage to recover for a thoroughly rewarding climax that's as heartwarming as it is satisfying, which ultimately confirms the picture's place as a somewhat erratic drama that nevertheless packs a punch at several key moments.