My Life in Ruins
directed by Donald Petrie
(20th Century Fox, 2009)

When William Wyler directed Roman Holiday, it is said that he decided to film it in black and white for fear that the overwhelming beauty of Rome in full color would outshine his actors, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Perhaps Donald Petrie, the director of My Life in Ruins, should have considered similar cautionary measures when filming Greece. Not only were his actors competing with the stunning Grecian landscape, but they also were wrestling with a storyline and writing that would have made Wyler call it a day before even beginning.

For My Life in Ruins, the country of Greece stole the show without much effort on its part. By the end, you don't particularly care what happened to the characters, but you do have a sudden yearning to drop everything in your life and steal away to Greece.

The film stars Nia Vardalos (Georgia) and an unexpected Richard Dreyfus (Irv). Without stepping beyond the boundaries of her quirky Greek-American typecast left over from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Vardalos switches sides of the personality spectrum her typecast allows. She is still wittily voicing her annoyance with the Greek culture and the people she is tied to, but this time she is actually in Greece and a plethora of stereotyped tourists are added to the list of annoyances.

Why the tourists? Well, she is a tourist guide and a mediocre one at that. Her ironic love of the culture and history of Greece and disdain for the people who created it seem to be off-putting for the American, Spanish and Australian ducklings that waddle behind her throughout the movie. Dreyfus comes in as "the funny guy" that is script-obligated to open her up emotionally and then force her into the arms of the handsome Greek bus driver. Needless to say, it didn't take much coaxing. Despite this we missed Dreyfus and are genuinely happy to seem him in a movie that lets him simply enjoy being on screen.

The problem with this film is that we can't even enjoy being along for the ride of self-discovery that Georgia goes through. All we really want is to shoot straight to the part where she gives in to the hunky Greek god-descendent, and watch a much more relaxed Georgia frolic around the beach with her tour group that inevitably comes to love her by the end of the film. Combine this feeling of impatience with writing that awkwardly shoves in "poop" jokes and unexplained hokey camaraderie between the tourists, and you not only have a life in ruins, but a film as well.

review by
Molly Ebert

8 August 2009

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