A vapid rich couple acquires a handsome android servant. When the frustrated wife gets too friendly the yuppie husband gets jealous. How long till they push their new guest into HAL 9000 territory? Life Like succeeds as a campy erotic thriller. It’s less successful as thoughtful sci fi but there are enough ideas to merit a discussion. The film is a breezy 90 minutes and worth a watch for fans of The Twilight Zone, Lifetime Original thrillers or softcore gay porn.
In this review I will avoid spoilers for the second half of the film… which is more than I can say for the trailer.
Sophie is the worst. We learn this early on when shames her human servants (“When you were a little girl, what did you want to be? I’m pretty sure it wasn’t someone’s housekeeper.”) Then she gives them two years severance pay, without asking her husband James. (“What? We have more money than God now.”) She grew up poor. She likes to reupholster old furniture because it’s authentic and stuff. She can totally manage their new mini-mansion herself… until about 9 minutes in when she realizes she can’t.
Addison Timlin plays her with a soft whine and a pained, martyred expression. She just can’t even.
James is the worst. We learn this from the way he talks down to his “crazy” wife. To be fair, if she’s going to call him at work to complain about the lawn he may as well get them an android servant. After days of being pushed around by his corporate handlers it’s nice to come home to a guy he can order about. And if the guy is handsome and doesn’t mind seeing James naked… what of it?
Drew Van Acker plays him exasperated. I mean… women amirite?
Now that we’ve established our potential murder victims it’s time to meet our MVP. Agent Carter’s James D’Arcy channels Vincent Price as the leering android inventor. Sophie feels uncomfortable around the female servants so she chooses Henry… a sensitive hunk. James isn’t sure… till the inventor orders Henry to lick James’s shoe. Now he’s into it. Soon Henry is cooking their breakfast and reading Charles Dickens.
Steven Strait is playing the most likeable character in the movie. Henry’s soft voice, sharp mind and curious eyes can inspire sympathy with or without clothes.
Indeed, much like the amorphous clay from which it is usually formed, the golem is a highly mutable metaphor with seemingly limitless symbolism. It can be victim or villain… ~ A Mutable Monster. July 17, 2017.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published in 1818. The myth of the Golem goes back to, at least, the 13th century. The recent films Her and Marjorie Prime showed us the seductive nature of an understanding A.I. companion. If our vapid protagonists would simply treat Henry with respect he could quickly grow into the man he wants to be. But for them the point of an android servant is to relieve the burdens of social niceties. James compares him to a “washing machine.” Another character compares him to a “vibrator.” Sophie sees him as “a person” but, unlike her human servants, he’s a captive audience to her “woke” posturing.
Writer and director Josh Janowicz wants you to pity, fear and lust for Henry. He succeeds. Henry’s plight inspires discussions of the nature of humanity and the power dynamics of the service industry. And if that’s not enough, there are moments like this…