Nov 26, 2010

[Movies] My Life In Ruins (2009)

My Life In Ruins (2009)A few weeks ago, my partner and I got into a major Nia Vardalos mini-marathon in a weird run of six degrees of movie watching. It's sort of what I refer to how while watching a movie you're reminded of another one and thus you queue that one up for viewing. This process repeats over and over again until you end up with a long string of movies to see and a whole day of your life spent in front of the television set.

No regrets there - these sessions only really happen when I'm together with my partner, so it does make for a rather geekily productive afternoon, evening or whatever statement of time is appropriate.

In this sense, Nia Vardalos movies are sort of a guilty pleasure. I love the way she writes comedy and of course the roles tend to only really work for her. I mean seriously, can you imagine anyone else trying to fulfill her role in the movies where she was the writer? Very, very strange indeed.

But this movie happens to be just one that she starred in and not necessarily one that she wrote.

My Life In Ruins first appears to be your typical romantic comedy taking advantage of a particular character trait of the lead actor or actress. In this case, we all associate Nia Vardalos with her Greek heritage, so why not stick her in a movie set in Greece, right? This campy little tale was directed by Donald Petrie and was mainly written by Mike Reiss with Nia Vardalos supposedly being involved but uncredited.

Actress Nia Vardalos at 2009 GLAAD Media Award...Image via WikipediaHere, Nia Vardalos is Georgia, who of course is a Greek American (duh!) and is stuck with the job of being a tour guide in Greece. She took the job after she lost her previous one as a professor of classical Greek studies. She figured that applying her knowledge to her tours would make her more valuable to the company but it tends to bore her assigned tourists, thus leading to negative reviews that ultimately affect her performance. All this and of course she was originally just a girl who chased after a man who didn't take well to her affections. Thus leaving her alone in a foreign land, trying to make ends meet.

In an attempt by her boss to make her quit, she is assigned to handle a lively yet potentially annoying group of tourists, a bus without air conditioning and a driver named Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis) who is assigned to her at the last minute. Georgia's luck along with her kefi seems to be totally drained at this point and this may be the tour group that breaks her. And yet over the course of the tour she starts to make a real connection with the group, thus leading to potential life lessons for her that should turn things around.

So on the surface, you can see how this movie fits into various pre-established romance and comedy movie roles. We have the eclectic group of tourists that will demonstrate typical annoying tourist behaviors, thus giving us something to laugh about. In time we were see past some of their caricature behaviors and realize they too are valuable people with wonderful insight. Nia is your bitter woman who must he helped by her ragtag group of misfits in order to get past her own issues. And the bus driver was made intentionally dirty in line with a romantic interest later on.

The driver really wasn't my type and I have mixed feelings about the fact that by the end of the movie, he still doesn't look that great. I'm thankful they didn't go through the stereotypical magical transformation at the end. But I'm sort of disappointed that the guy still didn't exactly put in that much of an effort. Or maybe it's more because he's not really my type, or something like that. Still, it was a nice change of pace instead of your typical American leading man given the situation presented to her.

Richard Dreyfuss was an interesting addition to the cast as Irv Gideon, even though he was clearly typecast. Sure, he was the bitter man who used insults and bad humor to get past his own pain. It's a very classic mold, one that was merged with the need to have a mentor figure in a somewhat unexpected form, but execution wasn't quite as consistent as it could have been. Still, he was pretty effective as a plot device and he kept the story moving along.

Overall, it was nice, not too original but not exactly predictable either. It does drag in some bits as we have to deal with the writers stressing the point of how annoying tourists can be, by the end you do still get some sense of satisfaction.

My Life In Ruins may not be Nia Vardalos' greatest movie, but is one that does try to showcase her unique niche of the comedic acting world to good measure. It gets 3 highly relevant but totally ignored factoids about ancient Greece out of 5.
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