A Life Less Ordinary

Confession: I'm creeped out by whimsy, the Touched By an Angel, TV-chickcom bullshit kind that filters into such movies as Michael and The Preacher's Wife. So imagine seeing feisty Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo cast as angels on assignment to make a love connection between Robert (Ewan McGregor), a scruffy, unemployed janitor, and Celine (Cameron Diaz), the spoiled, smartass daughter of the corporate bigwig (Ian Holm) who fired Robert. When janitor kidnaps heiress, it's the perfect chance for the angels to hold them hostage for love.

Didn't we just cringe through similar swill with Excess Baggage, the umpteenth It Happened One Night wanna-be? And this from director Danny Boyle, writer John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald, the bad-boy trio behind those Scottish shockers Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Be patient. The kinks kick in soon enough to turn this piffle into a profanely funny romance. Psyches are bruised, blood is shed, bodies are crushed — and that's just the angels. Plot holes are patched by McGregor and Diaz, a sexy star team that keeps springing surprises, such as karaoke and armed robbery. "I'd like to make a withdrawal," says Celine, poking a gun at a bank clerk. Chides Robert: "I thought we agreed — no clichés."

The movie damn near lives up to that promise. Picture the Marx brothers and the Coen boys collaborating on a valentine spiked with mirth and malice. McGregor, the Mr. Cool of indie cinema, has a ball playing a dim bulb. And Diaz, first seen emerging from a pool to shoot an apple off the head of her butler, is the real deal in screen sizzle. Life leaves in what timid Hollywood movies leave out, such as the string of saliva that links the lovers after a long, wet kiss and . . . oh, go on, see for yourself.

From The Archives Issue 406: October 13, 1983