To the new trend of female-empowerment comedies written, produced, directed by and starring tough, ambitious, talented women, add Kat Coiro’s L!fe Happens. I liked Jennifer Westfeldt’s Friends With Kids better, because it made more of an attempt to include men in the love, sex and parenthood equation. In L!fe Happens, the women do everything on their own. Almost. So far, I don’t know of any women who serve as the sole contributors to their own sperm banks. Still, as a riff on the perils of single motherhood, L!fe Happens and Friends With Kids would make a keen double feature.
Opening scene: two Los Angeles roommates are shrieking behind the walls of separate bedrooms with guys, fighting over the only condom in the house. (The men in this movie are so asinine they never bring their own.) Krysten Ritter (who co-wrote the film) is the brunette Kim, who makes a living walking dogs. The blonde is Deena (Kate Bosworth), a struggling writer who pens a book called A Self-Made Woman’s Lifestyle: Separating Yourself From the Bitches but doesn’t think twice about yelling “Don’t be a douche nozzle!” and snapping up the only condom, slamming the madhouse door. One year later, as a result of the lost-condom one-night stand, Kim has a baby named Max and the women are raising him together. They also have added a third roomie named Laura (Rachel Bilson)—a bimbo with depressing lifestyle challenges on a constant round of Craig’s List photo-op jobs advertising car wash openings and nude sushi modeling. The movie is mostly about how hard it is to stay in the dating pool with your head above water when you’ve got a screaming baby on your hands, a baby stroller in your arms and baby vomit on your bare shoulder at a cocktail party. “Make fun of me all you want for being a virgin,” chirps Laura, “but at least you’ll never hear me say, ‘I had sex with a guy last night and he didn’t call me again’ or ‘I got pregnant again’ or ‘I’ve got chlamydia!’” She’s got a point.
Taking turns babysitting, their lives and their home already “smell like milk, puke and dirty diapers” when the baby’s father, an Australian surfer with a tattooed neck, dumps his responsibility, leaving Kim with the Pampers, bottles and toys. Their idea of a home-cooked meal is Rice Krispies and marshmallows in the microwave (“Nobody uses pots anymore”) and they mumble so much and so fast that a great deal of the dialogue is totally incomprehensible. (Sometimes you get a line like “I never work out in the 15th day of my cycle” and you’re grateful.) The thrust of the trajectory depends on how many contrived situations they can think up to drag the baby from one strained setting to the next and still get laid. Eventually Kim meets Nicholas (Geoff Stults), a handsome guy in the middle of an ugly divorce, and pretends the baby belongs to Deena so he won’t run away. The first time she finally gets Nicholas into bed, she accidentally squirts breast milk in his eye, the jig is up, he flees, and you wonder what took him so long. Meanwhile Deena, who eschews commitment and thinks she’s got all the answers (“Treat ’em mean and keep ’em keen” and “Bone and bolt!” are her liberation logos), falls for a wormy nerd named Henri (talented, versatile Justin Kirk) who turns her life around with unrequited devotion. Ms. Ritter is a better actor than writer, although she needs elocution lessons, while Ms. Coiro a better writer than director. The women are pretty and charming and know their way around a vulgar stand-up comedy routine enough to grow on you. I guess there are better ways to waste an hour and 40 minutes than listening to feminist outbursts like “Legitimate fathers are antiques. Winston Churchill, Saint Augustine, Floyd Mayweather, Jack Nicholson, Barack Obama and my cousin Taylor were all bastards and they turned out O.K.”
Does Nicholas give in, become a reluctant father, and finance Kim’s ambition to open the world’s first doggie mall? Can Deena learn to trade in her never-ending parade of fashion shows, art gallery openings, sky diving instructions and designer motorcycle helmets for true commitment? Will Kim finally find happiness in a rented house with a sandbox and a swing set in the backyard and get a date with any male besides the one she gave birth to? This is Los Angeles, where everything pretends to be cool, nothing is real or relevant, and anything is possible. Then life happens. The rules, says Deena, are there are no rules, when multiple orgasms are involved.
It all sounds dreadful, like the pilot for another brainless comedy series on network TV, but it grows on you.
Running Time 100 minutes
Written by Krysten Ritter and Kat Coiro
Directed by Kat Coiro
Starring Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth and Rachel Bilson