Honestly, the fact that I didn’t shoot myself in the face after this movie amazes me. Don’t get me wrong—I love a tearjerker as much as the next person, and my taste in film gravitates toward the melancholy. However, the unbelievable amount of pain heaped upon the main character had me ready to commit sympathy suicide.
Jason Prayer (Mark Webber) lives in small town Nebraska, a football worshipping community that is as run down and dreary as the people in it. An outcast, he longs to leave, but the demands of his family and friends makes him stagnate. (Sidebar: with the exception of Gus (Harry Dean Stanton), these are mostly horrible, manipulative people.) Jason is perpetually tormented and disappointed by those he tries to love.
If that sounds awful, trust me—things get worse.
A single ray of hope arrives in the form of the luminous and mysterious Francis (Zooey Deschanel). Introduced as an otherworldly presence, she has an almost preternatural knowledge about Jason’s life. However, this interesting development devolves into an inexplicable seduction and increasingly bizarre behavior on her part. Hope fades, and depressing event compounds depressing event with cruel, unrelenting determination.
Oh, and then it continues to get worse.
Written as a sort of anti-“It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Good Life” patently refuses to entertain any sense of the original’s sentimentality. The film spends what seems like interminable hours driving home the brutal truth that the world is better off without Jason Prayer, and, despite the anemic flip-flop of the last twenty seconds, it’s hard to disagree.