A Beautiful Life: Misery Pile-Up About An Abused Teenage Runaway


“One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing,” Oscar Wilde quipped about the virtuous, beleaguered heroine in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop. A similar constitution is required to endure the misery pile-up in Alejandro Chomski’s film about saucer-eyed, abused teenage runaway Maggie (Angela Sarafyan), who roams the streets of Los Angeles and quickly finds kind protectors in David (Jesse Garcia), an illegal immigrant from El Salvador who tries to teach her the right way to love, and Esther (Bai Ling), a stripper who instructs her new charge to recite the Post-it affirmations that adorn her dressing room (“All things are possible for the ones who believe”). Based on the play Jersey City by Wendy Hammond, who co-wrote the screenplay with Deborah Calla, A Beautiful Life dispenses with continuity and credibility (when your career as a pot dealer is thwarted, try selling handmade beaded jewelry) to become the latest risible, City of Angels–set sudser about broken souls and crossed paths destined for the trash heap. Scream, smash, slap, cry, repeat. The only respite: fleeting scenes of Debi Mazar as a librarian, rocking a cardigan and reading glasses.