Just north of London live Wendy, Andy, and their twenty-something twins, Natalie and Nicola. Wendy clerks in a shop, leads aerobics at a primary school, jokes like a vaudevillian, agrees to waitress at a friends new restaurant and dotes on Andy, a cook who forever puts off home remodeling projects, and with a drunken friend, buys a broken down lunch wagon. Natalie, with short neat hair and a snappy, droll manner, is a plumber she has a holiday planned in America, but little else. Last is Nicola, odd man out a snarl, big glasses, cigarette, mussed hair, jittery fingers, bulimic, jobless, and unhappy. How they interact and play out family conflict and love is the films subject.
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A superb example of Mike Leigh's directing method - working with hisactors,many of them regulars, making up most of the script as they goalong.No falling empires or coveted magical rings here, just the small victoriesand tiny despairs of everyday life - Timothy Spall's ridiculous restaurant("Liver in Lager"??), Jane Horrocks' eating disorder and generalestrangement from the world, Jim Broadbent and his grimy little burgervan,Clair Skinner's endearingly sensible tomboy plumber... all exquisitelittleportraits. Best of all is Alison Steadman as the suburban Earth-mothertrying to hold it all together.It shows, above all, that a great film can be about anything really, aslongas the direction, acting and script is of this calibre. Ben Hur, itain't!Absolutely marvelous - 9/10.
Whoever wrote the late review missed the boat on this one - 'anotherboringfilm from mike leigh', 'i can tell you no such dialog ever did, or everwould take place' - rubbish! This is a very real, moving film. Don't lettheplot premise put you off - life in the day of 'typical' english,dysfunctional family of four - the characters develop at slow-burning pacewhile we watch on at fly-on-the-wall distance. Alison Steadman's characterin particular. I initially judged her as a rather silly woman who wouldgiggle at anything, but as the film progresses you see how good a mothershereally is, what she does for her children, how she has made sacrifices forthem and communicates with them. If people have seen this as a negativefilm, I hope they reconsider, as, for me, it shows how life is sweet,despite of and because of all the dysfunction of the family.
Although I always enjoyed his films, I never fully appreciated Mike Leigh until I heard his commentary on All or Nothing. Since then, I think I have been able to see Leigh for what he is: An incredibly gifted storyteller. I no longer feel the need to search his movies for some overblown message or statement, but rather just allow myself to enter into the lives of the intriguing characters he presents to us, walk with them on their journey, and learn with them as they learn about themselves.Life is Sweet is generally lighter fare than, say, his much later Secrets and Lies or All or Nothing, but it is no less compelling. The main characters are well-sketched, their humorous idiosyncracies never quite overstepping the mark into caricature (apart from some of the supporting characters, perhaps), and given enough depth and complexity to avoid the impression that Leigh is patronizing towards them (in a way that a lesser storyteller, such as Willy Russell, often appears).Life is Sweet is very funny, very warm, but also very human and poignant, with a few moments of grittiness. The ensemble of actors, including Jim Broadbent, Alison Steadman and (a very young) Timothy Spall deliver superb performances. Rachel Portman's score veers between the playful and the melancholy, reflecting (creating?) the tone of the film.
The story focuses on a family that lives in the outskirts of London where they try to make the most of the life. Andy, the father, works as a supervisor for a large kitchen and he hates his job. Andy is a dreamer that often does not get things done, but always starts countless new tasks as he has aspirations to start something new. The mother, Wendy, works as a clerk in a small boutique that sells children's clothing and she teaches physical education in an elementary school. Through a friend of the family she gets a night job as a waitress in a French gourmet restaurant in order to help the friend to get back on his feet.Wendy and Andy do what they can to make life tolerable and enjoyable. They make the most of the ups and laugh at the downs. Together Andy and Wendy have raised a pair of twins that are now twenty-something, Natalie and Nicola. The positive Natalie is a hard working plumber who has inherited her hard working attitude from her mother, and she acquired her father's visionary skills as she aspires to go to the United States. Nicole is the opposite of Natalie as she is exceedingly pessimistic, introspective, bulimic, nervous, depressed, and unemployed.Wendy and Andy's daughters, friends, and self-imposed friends brings them joy and misery. Together they display an intriguing resilience to deal with the issues that trouble them through a positive, loving, and sometimes joking attitude. Their knowledge of life is great as they do not worry over things they cannot control, but they are fully aware that they can control their own feelings towards life whether it is good or bad. Natalie and Nicole become an allegorical example for the good and bad times as they are opposites, and the parents embrace both.Life is Sweet brings "life" to the audience through the family that experiences both ups and downs. Mike Leigh's creative direction brings the cast together to rehearse before establishing the script. These rehearsals often contain improvisation and suggestions from the cast which results in a unique cinematic experience with characters offering great depth. Leigh truly displays skill and ambition to work in a team atmosphere in order to bring out the absolute best from each individual. The outcome from the teamwork is an excellent cinematic experience as it feels both genuine and it offers some valuable lessons to the audience.
The acting in this film is ever so good - it makes you want to act yourself. Alison Steadman is the lead in my view - and milks every moment to fully establish her character. Ms. Steadman and Ms. Horrocks more than deserved the Oscar nominations they never received. This slice of life is truly remarkable as it deals with so many issues. For me it proves there is no such thing as a functional family, and the issue of anorexia nervosa is the most real and honest ever put on film. This is one of those rare films that move you to tears, whilst making you howl with laughter - and above all think. Everything is helped along by the beautiful music by Rachel Portman - who, with an Oscar for 'Emma' and an Oscar nomination for 'The Cider House Rules' is only just getting the accolades she deserves. If you watch 'life is Sweet' - life will be very sweet for a very long time after.
"Life is Sweet" meanders purposelessly from comedy into drama as it tellsofa chapter in the life of an English family of four. On the up side, thefilmconjures up some funny moments mostly from its many quirky characters asitdrifts into increasingly serious moments of drama. On the downside, theversion I Tivo'd was technically inferior with muddled sound, poor qualityvideo, no closed captions, and didn't end as much as it just quit leavingtoo many questions unanswered. Overall, "Life is Sweet" is a good attemptwhich ultimately fails to deliver in spite of its excellent cast,numerousawards, and modest critical acclaim. (C+)
Good movie. However, there are NO bonus features, as advertised. NO menu, NO extras, NO subtitles, nothing. Amazon should change the description of the product.
British director Mike Leigh presents yet another optimistically titledworking-class comedy, set in a humdrum suburban London neighborhoodwhere life, at times is anything but sweet. The film showcases Leigh'spre-occupation with (typically British) dysfunctional family life:dad's an underachiever; mum's a working housewife; but both are able tomaintain remarkably high spirits after raising twin teenage daughters,one a demure apprentice plumber and the other an anti-social, bulimic,post-punk dropout. Except for a lack of political criticism the filmcould almost be a matching bookend to Leigh's previous 'High Hopes'.Both films share a sense of humor rooted in the director's keenobservations of daily life at its lowest common denominator, with astory drawn around simple, memorable characters created (as in everyMike Leigh movie) by the entire cast before a script was even written.
I often fantasise about directing a movie (yes, I know I'm sad!), and Iwould like to think that my movies would come out like Mike Leigh's:affectionate without being sentimental, funny without crossing over intoout-and-out comedy, realistic without being bleak or depressing.This portrayal of an "ordinary" English family is everything a film oughttobe. Great acting - Alison Steadman in particular - her character'srelentless optimism and cheerfulness interspersed with knowing when asituation needs to be treated more seriously; Jim Broadbent as theday-dreaming father and Jane Horrocks as the anorexic Nicola. All thecharacters are beautifully drawn, including the minor characters (TimothySpall as doomed chef Aubrey, Stephen Rea as dodgy-dealer Patsy, DavidThewlis as Nicola's unnamed lover).Some typical Leigh scenes include the excellently framed shot of theburger-van in the scrapyard (which could almost be a painting!), and thepanning shot along the back of the row of houses (implying that similardramas are unfolding in everyone's lives).Not much actually happens, but that's part of the point - it takes inthemesof happiness, hopes and dreams, friendship and family ties. Clearly aprecursor to "Secrets And Lies", this is a simpler, purer film, but withthesame message of ultimate optimism.
A sublime slice of ordinary life from Mike Leigh. He takes us through 5daysin the life of a London family: Jim Broadbent, Alison Steadman and theirtwin daughters Claire Skinner and Jane Horrox. What follows is by turnstouching, hilarious and unsettling. Leigh is often compared to Ken Loach,but Loach deals with unspeakably grim and often melodramatic scenarios.Thefar more impressive gift of Leigh is to make tales from the apparentlyunremarkable. So many touches run true here; Steadman doing a little danceto herself alone in the kitchen, Broadbent and Stephen Rea drunkenlyreciting the Spurs Double side, Skinner describing an arthritic old womanmet on her plumbing round. And the tragedy of the film is also unveilednaturally and feels horribly believable.The performances are also astonishing. Broadbent and Steadman, bothdistinctive actors, can descend into parody but here are just hugelyenjoyable. Skinner is nicely deadpan but the star is Horrox, playing atwitching wreck of a girl who mainly communicates in one word insults.Little wonder she's been given so many chances to prove her talentssubsequently, just a shame she's never taken them. The only false note isTim Spall as a manic chef. Perhaps that's because he's simply put in forcomic value (he was far better in Leigh's 'Secrets and Lies'), hischaractergiven none of the depth which lights up the rest of thefilm.
Mike Leigh treats us to another masterpiece with Life is Sweet, a superbtale of about 4 days in the life of a family in upper-lower-middle classEngland. Actors in this film really show their full range when scenes gofrom powerful to hilarious.
...are the small ones.Mike Leigh worked with his relatively small cast (five main cast membersandabout four supporting cast members), improvising characters, devisingscenarios and plots, and came up with this; one of his earliestmasterpieces.The plot is simple enough. A couple of days in the life of a working classLondon family. There isn't really a plot as such. A couple of fairly deepissues are dealt with, such as eating disorders and depression, but otherthan a few moments, all we are doing is watching a family live their life:astrong hard-working mother (Alison Steadman); a weaker easily-led by hismates father (Jim Broadbent); and their twin daughters: Natalie (ClaireSkinner) - resourceful and kind-hearted but with a strange tendency towearmen's shirts and down pints - and Nicola (Jane Horrocks) - screwed up,rude,irrational and painfully insecure in both her looks and herintelligence.The performances brought out by this form of filmmaking are superb - astheyare in all of Leigh's movies (Secrets & Lies, Career Girls and All OrNothing are all worthy of viewing, but especially Secrets & Lies).However,Alison Steadman is the standout (perhaps for no other reason than she hasthe most screen time), the driving force that brings all the familytogether. The scene in which she finally cracks and loses that nervouslaughto tell Nicola a few home truths and break down the barriers that Nicolahasput up between herself and the rest of the world, is so beautifullywrittenand terrifically performed that it is a shame that Steadman in particularwas not Oscar-nominated.Only one or two criticisms struck me. One was a slight lack of developmentof the other daughter. What exactly DOES make her tick? Am I merelystereotyping by assuming she is supposed to be a lesbian? Or is she justhappy being so masculine in her dress-sense and mannerisms - (she isn'tevenoffended by a client who calls her a 'good lad')? We never find out,becausethe film focuses a little more on her sister. It certainly appears thathermother suspects her daughter of being gay, but for some reason the subjectis never brought up.Similarly, a couple of loose ends are never tied up. The caravan and therestaurant in particular. But I guess we have the prerogative to make ourown endings up haven't we, so that's a good thing in manyways.I think at the end of the day, people will either like all of Mike Leigh'sfilms or none of them. And I'm in the former group. His work is beautifuland always touching.
This review is from: Life Is Sweet [Region 2] (DVD) I've been a fan of Jane Horrocks for decades. I bought this film because it contains, as far as I know, her only nude scene. The scene isn't long, but interesting, especially if you also like chocolate.
This review is from: Life Is Sweet [Region 2] (DVD) I would like to have had the information that this DVD DOES NOT PLAY ON AMERICAN DVD PLAYER. It was the first disk I had tried to play on my new player. So I couldn't figure out what was wrong, I didn't think of putting any other disk in because I just assumed it would play. Why wasn't I informed of this? I got someone to look at the player and finally found out.
This review is from: Life is Sweet (DVD) So, call it 3.5 stars. 'Life Is Sweet' is one of my favorite movies but this is a rather poor DVD print (struck from VHS, it seems) . Still, it's a small improvement over my cassette copy. At least now I can stop worrying about the old VCR eating the tape every time I watch it. It's a shame that a movie this great doesn't get the presentation it deserves. Hello, Criterion? Anybody home? Wake up and save this wonderful film.
I've only seen Life is Sweet twiceÂfirst when it came out fifteen yearsago and again just last night. The last fifteen years certainly haven'tdimmed my memory about what a wonderful movie this is.It's funny that the only two people in this critics' forum who don'tlike the movie are American. I'm not American-bashing, but manyAmerican films have the big names, pretty faces and lots of explosions.You generally won't find these in a Mike Leigh movie. Instead you'llfind wonderful stories, great characters and perfect acting (I couldwatch Jim Broadbent make toast and reading the morning newspaper).For some reason this movie really resonated with me over the years andI remembered so many little details that spoke volumes. The Decalogue,for example. Mike Leigh's movies are brilliant in terms of Decalogue(Jim Broadbent's "That is an evil spoon" has to be one of the greatestlines in cinema history).Life is Sweet isn't a happy movie, but it is a joy to watch.
Just one of those films that is subjectively sublime. Honestlyportrayed people just doing stuff and some of it going wrong and someof it going OK. Not sneering but celebrating a certain way of life, andso becoming a celebration of all our lives - maybe this borders intoobjectivity?Funny and joyful - with what could pass as tragedy, but still funny.Plenty of the inter-personal stuff that is so often missed in pursuitof consensus cinema. The actors just appear like people that are justthere - not acting but just doing things. Reminded me of crying with laughter after getting caught puttingdog-dirt (maybe not familiar with that term?) in my Grandad's petroltank on the estate - kind of thing - like I say - subjective.
This movie seems to have been designed for maximum irritation value. Eachcharacter is portrayed to his or her full capability to irritate and annoy.There is simply nothing compelling about any of them: Jerry Lewis at hisworst could never be as obnoxious as the forever tittering, idiot mother;the dim-witted father is beyond all hope; neither daughter has any merit ascharacters or as actresses. Each character (especially those outside thefamily), in one way or another, manages to repel the audience from caringeven a little about them. If bad characters and vague plot are not enough,the movie drones on and on, pandering shamelessly for the viewer to "pleaselike my little movie." Rating: 1 out of 10
This unpredictable and hard-hitting film follows the lives of thefascinating characters who make up a lower-middle-class family. Acharacter-based story, there really isn't a plot, as there isn't a plot inour everyday lives, but it is all the more interesting for that.The parents are amicable beings: the mother Wendy a chirpy, motherlycharacter (very well-acted), the father incredibly laid-back, yethard-working at a job he hates. Their two daughters are like chalk andcheese: Natalie, a plumber, is quiet and practical (I thought she was aboyat first: hers is a curiously unsexed character) while Nicola is acompletemess.The ugliness of true life is shown beside its mundane beauty. Theshockingscenes of Nicola's self-torture (she is a secret bulimic) are juxtaposedwith scenes of the mother dusting, and the ordinary cheerfulness of therestof the family. A bizarre family friend, Aubrey, and his dream of runninghis own restaurant provide a subplot of sorts, but the domestic drama isfarmore interesting.Horricks gives a startling good performance as the disturbed Nicola: shedrips with self-loathing, but inspires pity. The most poignant scene isonein which her boyfriend, no Einstein himself, becomes fed up with herintensesexual demands, and asks her to prove her intelligence by having a realconversation with him. Nicola, whom we know is intelligent, cannot bringherself to do this: she is compelled to always show herself in the worstlight. She can only mutter 'I AM intelligent' in a voice of despair. Theboyfriend departs, leaving her in a state of even more intense self-hatredand depression. It is hard-hitting scenes like this one which stick inthememory.The mother, Wendy, who appears a scatterbrain at first, emerges as adignified, wise and compassionate woman, as she responds in a touchingsceneto her troubled daughter Nicola.It's such a plain-looking film, yet it is striking because of theintensityof its characters, and the honesty of director Mike Leigh's observations.Although life is hard for the family, it is also sweet. That, I think, isLeigh's message.
Life is Sweet was the first Leigh film I saw, about 6 years ago. Tomark his new film, out this week in cinemas I bought the DVD of thisspecially.I settled to reacquaint myself with Leigh's regular team of characteractors. I've seen all his films subsequently and have a feel of hisbreadth of work, from tragicomedy to drama. As such, I found thecharacters' mannerisms and foibles to be grating and really quiteirritating, as if they'd been overacted, or misjudged. At first. But, as with any family that open their front door to you anduntil you see and hear how they click and survive as a family unit, youreally do wonder what you've let yourself in for. So, having 'moved in', within 15 minutes I was warming to them. Tenmore and I felt I knew them and was totally immersed in their humourand lives. I'm still surprised as to how political and socialstatements from the late '80's (as well as a trip down memory lane;rusty Ford Escorts and shell suits) manifest themselves through thecast. Bit like the kitchen sink dramas of the '60's but without thegrainy black & white, the grime and hitting womenfolk. Leigh's canvasis much wider and behind everyday doors in everyday streets lie theoften dismissed emotional and confused pains of modern life. Ordinarypeople whose problems seem to be teetering on the edge and to them,unique. The acting in those more poignant scenes is, as I sometimes describe,natural, as is. As you'd expect a real person to do. With broad humour, wit and a brisk pace this is still a sparklingsnapshot of British semi-suburbia twenty years ago. Nothing tooshocking or gratuitous. Not the red-hot, pure grit of hard unemploymentof Shane Meadows but the sort of folk we know about, or of, who workalongside us, holding the country together. Somehow.Sometimes, watching this, you'll wonder how, though....