Friend 2 Pudding’s review published on Letterboxd :
This one is totally beyond my capabilities to write about. I'd sort-of recommend seeing it. I'm not saying it is good. To be clear it is in places - a lot of places - excruciating. But it is an experience. Totally unlike anything I've ever seen. I'd say to go in unspoiled though, cos the curveballs this film throws is pretty much the big thing it has going for it.
If you're gonna see this I'd say take some cans in with you - high alcohol content cans. Maybe a friend as well (one who won't judge you and who'll sit through anything). Just soak it all up. This movie is weird as fuck, but weird in the way the Hallmark channel at 5am is weird. Lifetime-movies-when-you-actually-stop-and-think-about-them weird. Paula Deen weird.
To sum it up best I can, I feel like this is what we'd have got had John Green finished The Fault In Our Stars and had sat down to try to write his 100 Years of Solitude or East of Eden. It's John Green's great american novel. But to be clear it's a film not a novel and it was someone other than John Green who wrote it.
I'm not just making that comparison flippantly or to diss John Green and the movie. Say what you like about John Green but, in my opinion, two americans making out in Anne Frank's bedroom and then getting applauded is something you can only write - for good or bad - if you're truly committed to the bit and believe in the shit you're writing. And Life Itself - which I don't believe John Green had any involvement with, to be clear - is truly committed to its shit. And I feel a lot of respect for it for that reason. If you're gonna be awful you may as well have really tried along the way.
It has a lot of the same, like, metatextual interests as John Green too. Like Fault In Our Stars it becomes, for some reason, an extended mediation on authorial intent and reliable vs unreliable narration. It also spends maybe a fifth of its run time talking about Bob Dylan's Time Out of Mind. That's a good album but Bob probably regrets licensing it for this cos it's definitely gonna have ruined it for a lot of people. Olivia Cooke does a pseudo riot girl punk cover of Make You Feel My Love. It's awful but, I dunno, I can buy that as something a dumbass angsty teenager would do. I just don't have a read on whether they meant it to be good or cute or not, as it is neither. That's the story of the film really.
Thinking about it some more actually, Bob Dylan probably does not give a shit and will never watch this.
The film also knows a lot of people are gonna hate it and it basically says as much in the narration, multiple times. So I respect that as well. I probably sound really critical, and there's a lot to be critical of here, but in my heart of hearts I was actually pretty into this. I'm into this in the same way I'm into all those tumblr posts that end with 'and everybody clapped'. It's very much an 'everybody clapped' kinda movie only the only thing that is clapped is my critical faculties for sort-of enjoying this.
There was a Q&A with the writer after the movie but it was late and I wanted to go home. Shame I had to leave though as I'd love to know what he thought he was doing. He shouldn't be allowed to do it again, but I dunno, this was a trip.