A vibrant lead performance keeps you watching but cannot make up for an overall lack of comic punch and dramatic depth in "L!fe Happens," an indie featuring a young woman's rocky, raunchy ride from party girl to capable parent. Superficial storytelling and tonal incongruities flatten and muddy the action transpiring around this movie's viable premise.
The film is the feature debut of Kat Coiro, who wrote the screenplay with lead actress Krysten Ritter. They describe the movie as a female buddy comedy, rather like "Swingers" with a baby aboard.
It also contains "Bridesmaids"-style raunch, early-Almodovar madcap, Hollywood screwball romance and personal-awakening drama.
In Eastside Los Angeles, roommates and best friends Kim (played by Ritter) and Deena (Kate Bosworth) lead things off by fighting over who will get the last condom during a night of carefree sex with their dates. A year later, Deena is a career-ascending writer with a sizzling social life. Kim is walking dogs and scooping up poop for a living and toting around an infant son.
Babies scare away men, discovers Kim, who is reentering the dating game and not about to sabotage her chances with hunky Nicholas (Geoff Stults). To ensure success, she tells Nick that baby Max is, in fact, Deena's kid.
The lie, of course, begets more deceptions, threatening both the Kim-Nicholas romance and the Kim-Deena friendship.
The film contains worthy themes, such as the struggles of young mothers who aren't ready for the responsibilities involved. A stoplight scene in which two guys in an adjacent car flirt with Kim and Deena, then hightail it upon realizing that the women have a baby in the backseat, is funny and believable.
Ritter, meanwhile, whose acting credits include TV's "Breaking Bad," is a sparkling big-screen presence with a flair for comedy who also makes Kim seem worthy of viewers’ sympathy.
The problem is that the story unfolds largely with sitcom-level dimension. And once the main contrivance sets in, ridiculous scenarios eclipse credibility.
Additionally, the raunchy antics, ditzy deceptions and cynical quipping don't mesh tonally. Worst are the romantic-comedy ingredients at the end. For all their purported independence and feminism, the women are presented as triumphant when each gets a man. The men _ the bland Nicholas and an obnoxious faux-French dude calling himself "Henri" (Justin Kirk) _ aren't even worthy of them.
Tedious supporting characters also include Kim's demanding boss (Kristen Johnston), and Kim and Deena's Christian virgin roommate, Laura (Rachel Bilson).
All said, "L!fe Happens" contains things to like, but not enough real life.
Starring Krysten Ritter, Kate Bosworth, Rachel Bilson, Geoff Stults
Written by Kat Coiro, Krysten Ritter
Directed by Kat Coiro
Running time 1 hour 40 minutes