‘A Life Less Ordinary’ (1997) was Boyle’s follow-up to his best film, the iconic ‘Trainspotting’. It came from all the same main players (director Boyle, producer Andrew Macdonald, writer John Hodge and star Ewan McGregor) and was made on a much larger budget than he’d had before. It was his first film set outside the UK and was not a financial success upon release.
McGregor, mysteriously retaining his Scots accent, plays a cleaner and aspiring novelist, working for a large American corporation, who gets fired, broken up with, and then evicted in quick succession. Desperate, he goes to confront the company’s owner (Ian Holm) and inadvertently ends up taking the boss’s spoilt daughter (Cameron Diaz) hostage. In fact, Diaz is quite happy to be taken hostage by this incompetent young would-be kidnapper, as she’s just been told she now has to work for a living, and as soon as the unlikely pair escape, assists him in coming up with a ransom scheme.
The film has an added fantastical element, bookended by scenes set in heaven, where everything is blindingly white. Two angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) are sent down to earth to make the couple fall in love, because apparently that is an angel’s job.
This fantasy element does help to separate ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ from the numerous other comic crime films of the period but also is totally unnecessary. The angels are also hired as hitmen by the boss, which could have been their sole role, and the romantic element could have been left to play out of its own accord without their interference. Also, the soundtrack, which uncharacteristically for a Boyle film, isn’t used very well, is very 1990s.
Boyle keeps things moving along at a brisk pace but ‘A Life Less Ordinary’ just isn’t very funny when it tries to be, wastes good actors in small, fairly superfluous roles, and is unconvincing as a romance, especially considering Diaz’s fairly unlikable character. Certainly Boyle’s weakest film, and one probably better forgotten about.