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Film review: This is My Life

Published: Monday, March 16 1992 12:00 a.m. MST

"This is My Life" provided the opening night event for the Sundance Film Festival a couple of months ago, described as an in-studio independent film. Its biggest stars — Dan Aykroyd and Carrie Fisher, both very good — are in small supporting roles, while the leads are taken by a character actress, the ingratiating Julie Kavner (who also does the voice of Marge on "The Simpsons"), and the teenager who plays her oldest daughter, engaging Samantha Mathis. (Her younger sister is played by adorable Gaby Hoffmann.)

Making her directing debut, and showing a sure hand at it, is Nora Ephron, who wrote the screenplays for "When Harry Met Sally . . ." and "Heartburn," among others. (She co-wrote this script with her sister Delia Ephron.)

Kavner stars as a single mother who wants to do stand-up comedy, and when she gets her chance, finds her rise to the top amazingly rapid. But the show-biz backdrop and Kavner's quick success merely provide the drive for the story, which is really about the difficulty of giving children the love and attention they need when you are in pursuit of a career — especially a career you love.

Single mothers in particular, and parents in general should easily identify with Kavner when her boyfriend (Aykroyd)tells her not to worry, that kids are happy if their mother is happy. Kavner promptly tells him he's dead wrong: Given the choice between Mom being ecstatic in Hawaii or committing suicide in the next room, they'll choose having Mom in the next room every time, Kavner says.

That kind of wisdom could only come from someone who's been there.

For the most part, "This Is My Life" is witty and warm, the actors are all enjoyable and the sentiment is on the mark (including a touching sequence that has the daughters running away to find their father, creating an uncomfortable situation for all concerned).

There is, however, an uncomfortable sex scene involving the teenage daughter that seems awfully strong for the film's PG-13 rating; it's not something I want my children to see. (Why is teenage sex a given in movies these days? Yes, statistics show teen sex is at an all-time high, but it would be nice to have a movie once in awhile that shows teenagers just saying no.

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