I still haven't checked out My Big Fat Greek Wedding in which actress Nia Vardalos is most famous for, but I suppose there's a fan in one of the distributors here to bring in yet another of her film this year after I Hate Valentine's Day. While it's nothing cerebral about the films she starred in (so far that I've watched), one cannot discount the fact that her sunshine demeanour has brought about some positive vibes and feel good factor to her movies, that it's somewhat of a delight to sit through her romantic comedies, thanks to sheer charisma.
Written by Mike Reiss and directed by Donald Petrie, My Life in Ruins isn't as dire sounding as its title, touching upon a snapshot of a tour guides stint and rapport developed with a group of tourists under her charge. It's been some five years since I last enrolled myself into a tour group to discover far out places, and the premise of the film brought back some of these memories, good and bad. And in some ways the filmmakers hit the concept right in the head, given how we normally perceive strangers we met for the first time through a pigeonhole concept, classifying them based on prejudices or little nuances that we pick up, and nickname them after.
The film in that way, mirrors real life experiences from tours (as far as I'm concerned with my personal participation) and how the tourists slow grow from strangers to friends who have forged strong bonds, some even after the parting of ways. It also plays on the stereotypes of typical tourists from various (Western) countries, such as the clueless American and the friendly Australians, though of course not every caricature gets painted in positive light, in a comical way not meant to offend.
Nia Vardalos plays Georgia, an American-Greek expatriate in Greece whose temporary job while waiting for a college teaching appointment, is that of a tour guide in a dingy tour establishment. Being rated consistently as an average performer as compared to her irritating peer, it seems that she's in for yet another tough time with a motley crew of tourists, and paired by with a terribly bearded bus driver Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis). Using her expertise knowledge to good but boring use, she constantly finds it a challenge to connect with her charges, until the joker of the group Irv (Richard Dreyfuss) begins to impart some words of wisdom to help her out. Frankly speaking if I was on a guided tour, I'd appreciate such a tour guide very much, rather than someone who brings you to various shops all the time for kickbacks in the form of commissions earned when you shop at their preferred outlets.
It's a romantic story as Georgia soon finds love in the unlikeliest of persons, and with her new found optimism, begins to address the issues of those in her tour bus as they build on their camaraderie, culminating in the hilarious solving of their bus's air conditioning problem. Expect plenty of light comedy being peppered throughout the film, especially since it plays on the abilities and nature of its characters, such as the kleptomaniac, and the pair of divorced friends. Some jokes aren't politically correct, and look out for Vardalos' real life husband playing a sleazy hotel employee trying to proposition her.
Unfortunately most of the backdrops, save for the more famous Greek monuments, were shot in Spain instead of in Greece. It would have been quite the Greece-101 for those who have not visited the country before, but alas this is not the film. But what it is though, is a reminiscing look back into the days when anyone had gone on a tour with a group of strangers, and emerged with new found friends and experiences. Offhand I cannot think of any film that has this as a premise, and for that, I'd say to give this film a chance. After all, it stars the ever-chirpy Nia Vardalos, and it's about time I visit her fat Greek wedding!