“Life or Something Like It” is the title of a wonderful movie starring Angelina Jolie and Edward Burns that has become one of my favorite message movies.
It tells the story of Lanie who comes to question the meaning of her life. Lanie grew up in the shadow of her beautiful sister who was a cheerleader, grew up to get married, have children, and live in a big home. Lanie also had big dreams for herself, grew up to become a gorgeous television news personality, and was engaged to a popular baseball player. Everything seemed to be going really well for her until she met a homeless man who was a self-proclaimed prophet named Jack. With her new cameraman, Pete, a boyfriend from her past, they interviewed Jack about his prophesies. He gave her several predictions and then stunned Lanie by telling her that she only had seven days to live. At first she didn’t take it seriously until she saw that his other predictions were coming true, which convinced her that she did, in fact, only have a few days left on earth.
This sends her into a frantic journey of self-discovery as she begins to question everything about her life. She tries to reconnect with her sister who turns out not to have the perfect life that she thought she had. She visits her dad, and to her surprise, she discovers that he really was proud of her and always had been when she didn’t think he was. Later she finds out that her fiancé really didn’t love her, but was with her for being more arm candy than anything else, which results in her breaking up with him.
During all of this, she starts to reconnect with Pete, who really cares about her and accepts her just as she is. Lanie also discovers that all the outward appearances of her life were superficial and she starts to go within to find her true self.
Lanie had also been up for a big network TV position, which Jack told her she would not get, but she was shocked and excited when the job was actually offered to her. Therefore, maybe she really was going to live! Her first interview would be with her idol, a famous media personality, who wanted complete control over the questions. Throwing caution to the wind, Lanie asked her questions that weren’t on the list and caused the woman to cry; consequently, after the interview was over, the woman fired Lanie. But the ratings were high and the network still offered her the job.
She suddenly had an epiphany in that she realized that this wasn’t the job or the life she really wanted and she decided to go back home to be with Pete and lead a much simpler life. Except as she left the building, there was a struggle between a man and an officer, and the man’s gun went off accidentally shooting Lanie. Fortunately, she survives and she and Pete tell each other how much they love each other, and the film has a happy ending. So did Lanie die? As she said at the end in the voice-over, “Jack was right. A part of me did die that day; the part of me that didn't know how to live.”
I loved this movie as there were so many great messages in the story. How many of us believe that our happiness and well-being depends on outward appearances such as the way we look, the jobs we have, our houses and cars, etc., who we know, how much money we have, and so on? We think our identity is outside ourselves. But like Lanie learned, all this is nice and it’s okay to have these things, but they’re all superficial and have nothing to do with who we really are. All those things can go away, and for many of us, they have. Would we know who we were without them?
Our identity is not who we are out there, but it is who we are within. What kind of person are we? Are we loving, kind, compassionate, not only towards others, but to ourselves? Do we even like ourselves? Better yet, do we love ourselves just as we are? Can we be our own best friend? Are we being our own true authentic selves? Do we really know how to live? Who is in control of our destiny?
We can control our destiny! Gandhi said, “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” Or as Henry David Thoreau stated, “We are constantly invited to be who we are.”
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper February 19, 2016.