Yet if this rough template works on “This is Us,” it’s in part because the series has the time to develop characters by exposing different facets of them, and their key experiences, over time. In the context of the show, Fogelman is essentially peeling back layers of an onion — eliciting tears in the process.
Here, the filmmaker tries to cover the same ground by having those who populate the movie deliver lengthy speeches — in Banderas’ case, literally explaining his back story and what motivates him, then asking his employee (Sergio Peris-Mencheta of the FX show “Snowfall”) to reciprocate.
Perhaps foremost, “Life Itself” feels weighted down by its sense of self-importance. The studio seemingly has high hopes for the film, giving it an early spin on the festival circuit in advance of its U.S. release. While early reviews mostly sneered, based on the buttons that are pushed, one suspects reaction will be polarizing and that the movie will surely have its fans and admirers.
Whether that translates into success even approaching what “This is Us” has achieved in television remains to be seen. But when a top TV producer applies his talent to movies and the result contains this many flaws, the first impulse is to politely suggest — at least in the short term — not quitting your day job.
“Life Itself” premieres Sept. 21 in the U.S. It’s rated R.