“My Life Before...”
Directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written by Zach Braff and Michael Arndt
Original Score by Chad Fischer
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Zach Braff- Jason Briggs
Alan Arkin- God
Anne Hathaway- Kelly Briggs
Judi Dench- Veronica Briggs
Sandra Oh- Angel Mary
Edward Norton- David Briggs
Charlize Theron- Young Veronica Briggs
Kathy Bates- Dorothy Charles
Jack Black- Chris Marion
Jamie Foxx- Ralph Smith
Tagline: “Looking from above, it’s a different story"
Synopsis: Jason Briggs (Braff) has a seemingly normal life. He gets up every morning takes a crap, takes a shower, gets dressed for work, has breakfast with his wife Kelly (Hathaway) and heads to the studio. That all changes one day when Jason has a sudden heart attack and dies; leaving his wife a widow and his mother (Dench) with no family left. When Jason arrives at the pearly gates, he has no idea why he died. He ends up being checked in by a driven young Angel (Oh) who quickly checks his name off the list and leads him to his room. On the way Jason tries to get Angel Mary to tell him how he died, but she explains to him that if you need to talk to God (Arkin) you can make a request at the front desk. As soon as he is settled into his room Jason quickly proceeds to the front desk where he makes and appointment with God so he can figure out how he died. The next day he wakes up and gets ready for his appointment with God. She explains to Jason that she is going to take him through his life so that he can talk about the problems that he faced in his life that he just hid.
Starting off a big flat screen T.V. rolls down and the popcorn is popped and God flips on the T.V. fast forwarding through Jason’s birth, God presses play at the first time that Jason was abused by his father (Norton) and that him young mother (Theron) was abused too. Jason pleads with God to just skip to the next chapter, but she refuses and makes Jason talk about it. Jason explains that not long after his mother would take him to her mother’s (Bates) house and he would be raised there. God then skips to the next chapter where Jason got active in theater and was teased by the other boys at his school calling him “Gay”, “Stupid”, and “Faget” for not participating in sports. Although Jason would eventually become a well known actor in the local theater, he never quite got over the lack of understanding his peers gave him. God then tells Jason that all the boys who teased him as a boy grew up to be McDonald’s workers, Wal-Mart employees, and Truckers. While Jason is quite pleased they would never amount to much, he always knew that they wouldn’t. God then shows Jason the time that he met Kelly and how happy he was that he had found a person who understood him. God then shows Jason how he died and the aftermath of his death. Jason discovers that his mother and his wife and in the middle of a huge fight over what to do for a funeral, what to do with his possessions and everything else. Jason also finds that everything that really mattered to him is falling apart. Including, his latest movie project is completely going down the drain. The not so popular director, Chris Marion (Black) has taken over the story of Jason’s life and everything is drifting away from Jason’s vision. God then tells Jason that each person in heaven has one credit to go down to earth and live as a ghost for one day. The ghost can do pretty much anything, talk to people if he/she chooses, appear in people’s dreams, or perhaps change the course of how events are going to happen.
Jason decides to take God up on the offer, and God explains to Jason that tomorrow an angel will come to his room and take him down to earth. Then at 11:59 that night the same angel will come down and take him away. Jason heads to his room to get a good nights rest so that he can get as much accomplished tomorrow as possible. When Jason looks at the clock it is 3:00 in the morning and Jason decides he better get an early start. As soon as Jason gets out of the shower, Angel Mary appears to him and is ready to take him down to earth. Jason’s first mission is to take care of this feud between his mother and his wife. So Jason is down early enough to appear in both of their dreams and tell them exactly how he would like to be cared for. He also explains to both of them that he doesn’t want the two people he cares about to get into a fight over him, he also tells them that he loves both of them always and will wait for both of them up in heaven. His second mission is harder to complete simply because it is the middle of the day and going into people’s dreams takes a while. So, he decides since he is invisible he will steal a couple of sleeping pills and sneak them into a few of people involved in the movies’ drinks. So the studio exec Ralph Smith (Foxx) and Chris Marion are now haunted by Jason’s ghost telling both of them that if this movie isn’t made in Jason’s vision the studio will crumble and neither will ever make an acclaimed film again. Jason then witness’ his mother and Kelly reconciling and his film actually starting being made in his vision, but Angel Mary then takes him back up to heaven. God calls Jason into his office the next day telling Jason he is very pleased with what he did and if he never needs to talk to him again he would love too.
What the press would say:
Well, the premise of My Life Before may seem a little familiar don’t let that keep you from seeing this movie. While the film could go to many cliché’s similar too Little Miss Sunshine, which was directed by the same directors, it doesn’t which is why this is my favorite film of the year. Zach Braff and Michael Arndt have written one of the wittiest comedies in the new century. Yet, the screenplay manages to seem genuinely heartwarming and with no emotional reunion. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris have once again cranked out another amazing motion picture that is just perfect for them and is near perfect in every emotion and the feel is just right. A perfect choice for directors and it was executed to the point it deserves an Oscar nomination for both of them. Zach Braff gives one of the best performances of the year as Jason Briggs, a deceased young man who wants to be remembered the right way. He it’s the nail on the head in trying to deal with his past and in realizing what he needs to do. There is a scene where Jason is trying to tell his wife that no matter what he is doing in heaven he is waiting for her and will never forget her or stop loving her. It is a scene that could be very stupid, but yet through the direction, writing, and acting it is one of the most powerful moments I have ever witnessed on the silver screen. Not too many words can describe the greatness of Zach Braff’s performance, yet you know that it is just simply amazing. Alan Arkin gives a great performance that is nothing short of an Oscar nomination. The role of God seems to have been written with Arkin in mind because it is perfect casting and a remarkable turn as one of the most known figures in history. Sandra Oh gives a performance that is perfect for her. She plays a role similar to her role on the television show Grey’s Anatomy which is perfect for her. She is so “I don’t take any crap” it is just a joy to watch. Anne Hathaway gives the performance of a lifetime that is going to bring some stiff competition into the Best Supporting Actress race. Just unforgettable performances, a side-splitting screenplay that is also touching, and excellent direction which in my book equals the best film of the year and quite possibly one of the best films in a long long time that deserves Oscars for the following categories:
Best Directors- Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Best Original Screenplay- Michael Arndt and Zach Braff
Best Actor- Zach Braff
Best Supporting Actor- Alan Arkin
Best Supporting Actress- Sandra Oh
Best Supporting Actress- Anne Hathaway
Best Art Direction