‘Booksmart’ Film Review: Olivia Wilde Makes a Splashy Directorial Debut With Witty Coming-of-Age Comedy

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How do you begin describing the movie you have been unknowingly waiting for your entire life? Do I start by telling you how incredibly hilarious “Booksmart” is? Or do I tell you how first-time feature film director Olivia Wilde created a resoundingly smart, inclusive, modern and revolutionary film for today’s teens?

How about this: “Booksmart” is, by far, one of the most perfect coming-of-age comedies I have ever seen.

Ride-or-die best friends and academic overachievers Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are a day shy of their high school graduation. Molly belatedly discovers that while she and Amy solely focused on homework, studying, and getting a fake ID solely for the purposes of using an all-night college library throughout high school, her partying peers are somehow also heading to Ivy League schools. Determined to have one last blast of hedonism before high school ends, she convinces Amy to go out with her for a night they will never forget.

Also Read: SXSW 2019: Olivia Wilde, A$AP Rocky and Jeffrey Katzenberg Among Featured and Keynote Speakers

Feldstein and Dever have a natural ease with each other that creates the kind of intimacy only two best friends can share. They are both extraordinarily talented, but their comedic balance and chemistry with each other are essential to the film’s success. There is no Molly without Amy, and they both own their roles while complementing the other. There’s a core honesty in their performances, even in the wildest and raunchiest of scenes.

Every member of the ensemble is remarkable, but the stand-out is Billie Lourd. Many might still know Lourd only as the late Carrie Fisher’s daughter, despite her own success on shows like “Scream Queens” and “American Horror Story.” It’s in “Booksmart” that she truly comes into her own. As Gigi, the eccentric, ethereal girl who is just a tad too extra but has a very loving and generous heart, Lourd steals every scene she’s in, which is hard to do in a cast packed with talented actors.

Also Read: Olivia Wilde’s ‘A Vigilante’ Picked Up by Saban Films and DirecTV

The story suggests”Can’t Hardly Wait” meets “American Pie” and, yes, “Superbad,” which launched the career of Feldstein’s older brother Jonah Hill,  But where those previous films were mainly about boys coming of age, with the plot around getting the girl or losing their virginity — and, let’s face it, some pretty misogynistic attitudes towards women and sex — “Booksmart” is just as raunchy and fun while also exploring the unique closeness and depth of a female friendship. Thanks in a large part to the all-woman writing team — which includes writer-producer Katie Silberman (“Isn’t It Romantic”), Emily Halpern (“Trophy Wife”), Sarah Haskins (“Celeste and Jesse Forever”) and Susanna Fogel (“The Spy Who Dumped Me”) — the script nails how two young women who have shared practically everything together talk, relate and even fight with each other.

That might not sound like a huge feat, but the movies have largely missed or misconstrued what a best friend means to a young girl. Throughout cinematic history, female friendships are largely facetious, concentrating on talking about only a handful of things — namely men, relationships and shopping (e.g., “Sex and the City”) — and when they do focus on issues facing young girls, like bullying and toxic concepts of beauty (e.g., “Mean Girls”), the defining emotional connection is left out. Wilde’s understanding of that connection and vulnerability, through her own experiences as an actress and as a woman, really shines through in her vision. There’s some uneven pacing in the middle of the film that perhaps needed a light edit, but it in no way hinders the narrative.

Teenage sexuality has also had a somewhat complicated history on the big screen. Women, particularly young women, are often subjected to the male gaze, and sex and sensuality are only viewed through a straight male lens. Now that we’re in an era with an increased awareness regarding consent versus coercion, we’re more aware of the problematic nature of some classic depictions of teenage sex lives. (For example, when dream boy Jake offers up his drunk soon-to-be-ex girlfriend to the geek to do whatever he wants to her in the John Hughes classic “Sixteen Candles.”)

Also Read: Jonah Hill’s Best Advice to Sister Beanie Feldstein on ‘Neighbors 2’: ‘No Joke Is Precious’

But that doesn’t mean films can’t address young lust, flirtation, or seduction, and Wilde doesn’t shy away from exploring these sensitive yet very normal teenage topics. My heart leapt when I heard Molly and Amy talking about how Amy might make a move on a girl she is crushing on, and Molly addresses masturbation without any shyness, proclaiming, “You just do what you do to yourself, and flip it.” Young women in the movies rarely get to discuss masturbation, much less demonstrate it, and if they ever do, it’s in hushed or shameful tones. In “Booksmart,” these two young women are allowed to be open, funny and completely comfortable discussing it.

The fact that the characters include a variety of ethnicities, and as well as LGTBQ+ and gender non-conforming teens –simply existing as adolescents without having their identities be their main character arc — is a beautiful thing to observe. Today’s high-schoolers seem far more advanced on matters of inclusion than older generations, which is why it was so important that although everyone in the film identifies differently, those identities are merely one aspect of their character rather than the sole driving point of their existence.

“Booksmart” has transformed the coming-of-age movie for a new generation, and Wilde immediately establishes herself not as the “next” John Hughes, Cameron Crowe or Judd Apatow but the first Olivia Wilde, the director who gave quick-witted, nerdy teenage girls their chance to shine.

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‘Booksmart’ Redband Trailer: Two Academic Superstars Just Gotta Party Now That School’s Over – SXSW

Read on: Deadline.

“We have to go to a party tonight,” the normally studious high school senior says on the last day of classes. “Nobody knows that we are fun. We didn’t party because we wanted to focus on school and get into good colleges.”…

17 Buzziest Movies Heading to SXSW This Year, From ‘Us’ to ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ (Photos)

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SXSW Film Festival is known for its horror film debuts, and this year, Austin, Texas, will attract big talent and famed filmmakers. Click through the gallery to see TheWrap’s buzziest titles.
It was announced in January that Jord…

SXSW: Olivia Wilde, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Henry Winkler + More Join Conference Lineup

Read on: Deadline.

The South by Southwest Conference and Festival have unveiled an additional list of names added to its keynote and featured speaker lineup. Actress Olivia Wilde is among names announced today as part of the Keynote speakers along with Endeavor Chief Mar…

SXSW 2019: Olivia Wilde, A$AP Rocky and Jeffrey Katzenberg Among Featured and Keynote Speakers

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South by Southwest Conference and Festivals has announced new keynote and featured speakers for the 2019 event, which will include A$AP Rocky, Quibi founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and singer David Crosby.

Actress Pamela Adlon, Chairman and CEO of Vox Media Jim Bankoff, co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Priscilla Chan, Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Cameron Crowe, author Tim Ferriss, author Neil Gaiman, United States Senator Mazie Hirono, journalist Soledad O’Brien, Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti, Quibi CEO Meg Whitman, Bird founder Tavis VanderZanden and Henry Winkler are also among the featured speakers announced Tuesday.

“Each of the Keynote speakers announced today reflect bold and innovative talent transforming their respective industries,” Hugh Forrest, Chief Programming Officer, said in a statement. “The breadth and diversity of the Featured Speakers make the 2019 event an even stronger and more compelling place for creatives, innovators and storytellers alike.”

Also Read: Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ to Open 2019 SXSW Film Festival

Olivia Wilde, who is attending SXSW Film Festival with her directorial debut, “Booksmart,” will also be a keynote speaker alongside newly announced Endeavor chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John and Instagram co-founder Mike Krieger. Previously announced Keynotes include Marti Noxon, Jessica Brillhart and Joseph Lubin.

“We’ve been fortunate to have Olivia Wilde at SXSW numerous times as an actress and producer, and we’re always impressed by her talent and her intelligence,”  Janet Pierson, Director of Film, added “We could not be more excited to have her here as a Film Keynote on the eve of her outstanding directorial debut, ‘Booksmart.’”

Also Read: SXSW 2019: VR Filmmaker Jessica Brillhart Named Film Keynote Speaker

SXSW 2019 will take place from March 8 to March 17 in Austin, Texas.

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TheWrap’s Inaugural ‘Power Women Summit’ Broadcasts Exclusively on SiriusXM

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 SiriusXM announced that it will exclusively broadcast TheWrap’s first-ever Power Women Summit, which aims to raise awareness and have frank conversations about gender equity in entertainment and media. The week-long special series will premiere on November 12 at 12:00 – 2:00 p.m. ET on Stars channel 109.

The “Power Women Summit on Stars” kicked off on Monday with highlights from the summit, including “Activism and Empowering the Next Generation” with Dolores Huerta, Katie Hill, and Zoe Saldana; “On the Basis of Sex,” with Felicity Jones; and “Leading by Example: A Conversation,” with Jill Soloway and Rebecca Sugar. The trailblazing lineup of speakers that will be featured throughout the week also includes actress and activist Alyssa Milano, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, attorney Anita Hill, actresses Mira Sorvino and Olivia Wilde, #MeToo Movement Founder Tarana Burke, and more.

Also Read: Hollywood Women Make History at First Power Women Summit: Takeaways and Next Moves

“The Wrap put together a remarkable lineup of women, and we are excited to share their powerful, thought-provoking conversations with the national SiriusXM audience,” said Megan Liberman, Senior Vice President of News, Talk, and Entertainment at SiriusXM.

“Right now is a crucial time to discuss equality and women’s rights,” said Sharon Waxman, CEO and Editor in Chief, The Wrap. “There was an air of excitement and momentum at our inaugural Power Women Summit, and I’m grateful to SiriusXM for helping further the message to a national audience.”

The Wrap’s 2018 Power Women Summit took place in Los Angeles on November 1 and 2 before a gathering of more than 1,500 women from across the media and entertainment industry. More information can be found at http://wrapwomen.thewrap.com.

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SiriusXM offers people without a subscription the chance to sample SiriusXM’s content on the SiriusXM app and the streaming web player at SiriusXM.com, seamlessly and without any registration requirements. Go to https://siriusxm.us/2AVma2a to tune in.

SiriusXM subscribers can hear highlights from the 2018 Power Women Summit beginning on Stars channel 109, and those with streaming access can listen online, on-the-go with the SiriusXM mobile app and at home on a wide variety of connected devices including smart TVs, Amazon Alexa devices, Apple TV, PlayStation, Roku, Sonos speakers and more. Go to www.SiriusXM.com/AtHome to learn more.

Saban Films Acquires US Rights to Michael Caine’s ‘King of Thieves’

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Saban Films has acquired the U.S. distribution rights to James Marsh’s “King of Thieves,” starring Sir Michael Caine, Sir Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent and Sir Michael Gambon.

Charlie Cox and Ray Winstone also star in the film produced by Working Title Films’ Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner alongside Michelle Wright and Ali Jafaar. Studiocanal financed the film.

Joe Penhall wrote the script based on source material from Mark Seal’s Vanity Fair article and The Guardian’s veteran crime reporter Duncan Campbell. The drama is about the April 2015 Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company burglary in which robbers reportedly stole over £14 million in loot, culminating in being the biggest heist in U.K. history.

Also Read: Saban Films, DirecTV Acquire Johnny Depp’s ‘Richard Says Goodbye’

“‘King of Thieves’ is led by a stellar British ensemble cast,” said Saban Films’ Bill Bromiley in a statement. “The pedigree of Michael, Jim, Tom, as well as Working Title make a very attractive package.  We absolutely love this film!”

“King of Thieves” will be released at the beginning of 2019.

Bill Bromiley and Jonathan Saba negotiated the deal for Saban, along with Studiocanal and Anne Chérel and Loubna Berrada on behalf of filmmakers.

Also Read: Saban Films President Talks Cannes Shopping Spree, Future Plans in ‘Theatrical Business’

Saban Films recently acquired Johnny Depp’s “Richard Says Goodbye” at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, as well as Olivia Wilde’s “A Vigilante” and Orlando Bloom’s “Romans.” Previous acquisitions also include “Berlin, I Love You,” “Keepers,” “The Yellow Birds” and “Never Grow Old.”

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‘Life Itself’ Film Review: Canned Tear-Jerker About Destiny Is a Jaw-Dropping Mess

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

If all you need from a love story are two people smiling at each other and a narrator saying they’re in love, then “Life Itself” is for you. If all you require to show the passage of years is a CG montage or some cheap makeup, then “Life Itself” is for you. If the only way you’ll know things are tough is if everyone dies, then “Life Itself” is for you.

For everyone else, though, writer-director Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself” is a glib, noxious, airplane-unworthy melodrama so insecure about its time-hopping, tragedy-strewn events and heart-stricken characters that, in its naked manipulation and narrative condescension, it resembles anything but the words of its title. One is likely to find more clarifyingly human drama in a 30-second Hallmark ad than in nearly any scene of this jaw-droppingly performative schmaltz.

Fogelman is the creator of NBC’s hit, award-winning, multigenerational soap “This Is Us,” fans of which readily accept that a cadre of writers, actors and directors have targeted their tear ducts with forensic zeal. But the two-hour movie version of interconnected highs and lows represented by “Life Itself” withers under the weight of so much forced emotion and storytelling trickery. Not to mention there’s a full-bore campaign to canonize Bob Dylan’s song “To Make You Feel My Love” as a shelter of squishiness inside the maelstrom of existence that feels practically unseemly.

Watch Video: ‘Life Itself’ New Trailer: Dan Fogelman Brings Together All-Star Cast in Tearjerker Movie

Before one can even get to the movie’s softest center, however, there’s an artificially edgy outer shell in which Annette Bening’s serene therapist listens to Oscar Isaac’s caustic Will bemoan the end of his marriage to perfect wife Abby (Olivia Wilde, beatified to a fault) by way of brusque one-liners, flights of fantasy, “Pulp Fiction” shoutouts (not kidding), and flashbacks to a romcom-idealized courtship in which Will — in the same frame! — tour-guides the proceedings. (The first sign you’re in shaky hands: the effects gimmick that reads “Nifty!” instead of “Illuminating!”)

Aside from the uncharitable notion that Will was institutionalized for being unfunny, this mini-portrait of a broken man is so facile and grating (Isaac looks like he’s selling something out of the trunk of his car, hoping not to get caught) that the mushy idiocy of the rest of the movie is almost a balm. Almost.

“Life Itself” is two other stories, as well. There’s angry young musician Dylan (Olivia Cooke), whose band name is PB&J. So when Dylan, still not over the childhood loss of her parents, picks a fight in the club, that means a punch and a gooey sandwich in the face. (Also, her thrash version of the Dylan song is … unfortunate.)

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How does Spain sound? That’s where Fogelman’s heart-juggling attention-deficit movie goes next, for a subtitled romance between olive picker Javier (Sergio Peris-Mencheta, “Snowfall”) and smiling waitress Isabel (Laia Costa, “Victoria”), not to mention some ham-fisted tension between serious-minded Javier and his benevolent boss (Antonio Banderas, coolly watchable).

By now, “Life Itself” is beginning to feel as if three earnest-but-rejected short stories had been Frankensteined in a lab to create one crazily ambitious, but still unpublishable, novel. Not helping is that terrible scripter’s crutch: incessant narration explaining who everyone is and what they’re going through instead of letting the actors show us. On top of that, the movie keeps nudging us with references to the literary device of the unreliable narrator — Abby’s line of study in college — as if we haven’t figured out already that the movie thinks “unreliable” means going left instead of right, tossing in a twist, shifting the action overseas, or making a character we like into someone we don’t.

Sorry, that’s just storytelling. And in this case, the cringeworthy kind that Fogelman needs to justify by repeating the phrase “unreliable narrator.”

Also Read: Olivia Wilde’s ‘A Vigilante’ Picked Up by Saban Films and DirecTV

By the end, when the connections are revealed (although easily predicted), and people have stopped getting hit by buses (also not kidding), here are many of the things “Life Itself” has ruined: Mandy Patinkin and Jean Smart as grandparents; the seriousness of mental illness; sassy baristas; Samuel L. Jackson (all over again); movie references; flirty post-coital talk; profanity; people-growing-old-in-seconds sequences; chapter titles for movies; olive oil. And to reiterate (a favorite tactic of the movie’s): Dylan; flashbacks; narration; love; death; your two hours.

It’s no artistic crime to see life as a grand canvas upon which the big emotions play, even if the unremarkable cinematography is pre-peak-TV flat. There’s arguably too little real feeling in movies these days, anyway, so Fogelman’s desires for “Life Itself” are understandable. But the way he reverse-engineers the story to sell the rollercoaster of life isn’t genuine; it’s a menu of stylistic distractions that feels at-you, instead of with-you, its meshed destinies like some kind of scorekeeping. Its actors are representations, not flesh-and-blood people. It treats tragedies the way a horror movie relies on jump scares. And it practically chomps at the bit to kill off its characters, so it can get to its cloying platitudes.

The biggest question you’ll leave thinking isn’t “How is life so mysteriously wonderful?” but “Who walks backward onto a street?”

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‘Life Itself’ Film Review: Dan Fogelman’s Roided-Out Tearjerker Is Darkly Satisfying

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Dan Fogelman is not afraid to explore the darker corners of humanity, but he’s super clear that you’re getting a dump truck full of sugar to make the medicine go down.

At least he has been, with content like NBC’s hit “This Is Us.” That show has to burn through an awful lot of story, and is subject to the standards of broadcast television. But Saturday night at the Toronto Film Festival, at the premiere of his new feature “Life Itself,” Fogelman proved he can find some balance while serving up silly sentiment — by giving you pain and tragedy as only an R-rated movie can.

An A-list army of Oscar Isaac, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Olivia Wilde and adorable crank Mandy Patinkin were perfectly paired off in early trailers for the film, which seemed to tell the stories of couples and their existential adventures.

Also Read: Dan Fogelman’s ‘Life, Itself’ Trailer Debuts During ‘This Is Us’ Finale (Video)

We’re happy to report the film is a reverse-engineered family tree of bleakness that is buffered by so much bittersweet love story that you can’t help but get attached. It’s like overhearing some soap-opera-level exposition at the beauty salon or catching pieces of a candid phone call on the metro.

The mom said what? She got hit by a bus? He did it right in the therapist’s office? She attacked her with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

All of these are plausible reactions to “Life Itself,” written and directed by Fogelman.

To describe its plot in detail is to betray the game of the film, but suffice it to say that the sum of its parts are exhilarating. Isaac, considerably famous and respected at this fruitful point in his career, is impressively committed to his plight as lovesick puppy bent on giving wife Wilde the life of her dreams. You think it works?

Newcomer Olivia Cooke is dazzlingly angry and listless as their daughter, struck by her own tragedy. Bening is the perfectly minimal Nancy Meyers-esque therapist helping through questions, and acting as a de facto narrator (something several voices are charged with, including a hilarious and random section given to Samuel L. Jackson).

Fogelman seemed humbled in introducing the film, marveling at TIFF venue Roy Thompson Hall and making the aww-shucks joke that “it looks like a place where Abraham Lincoln gets shot.”

But we’d argue that Fogelman has hit a new stride (which seems to be the promise that streamers like “Life Itself” distributor Amazon Studios make to creators straying from traditional platforms). He is free from the tempered sweetness of “This Is Us,” for which he no longer serves as day-to-day showrunner, and the quality of the writing notches above that of his 2011 script “Crazy Stupid Love.”

Fogleman purists will not be disappointed. The last 20 minutes of the film are an absolute blood bath of sentimentality, with an uplifting and sticky message that we are who we come from. That we carry the spirits of our loved ones into the next chapter of their story by living our own lives.

But it is the darkness that makes this a movie grownups can enjoy, and will surely make it a valuable library title for Amazon — and a valuable next step for Fogelman as a creator.

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‘Life Itself’ Stars & Director Dan Fogelman On Pic’s Vital, Hard-Edged Heart – Toronto Studio

Read on: Deadline.

Busy times are afoot for Dan Fogelman—well, busier than usual. Preparing to launch the highly anticipated third season of his NBC family drama This is Us in a matter of weeks, the series creator is currently in Toronto on behalf of his second fea…

Olivia Wilde’s ‘A Vigilante’ Picked Up by Saban Films and DirecTV

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Olivia Wilde’s “A Vigilante” has sold to Saban Films, along with DirecTV, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Sarah Daggar-Nickson wrote and directed the crime drama. “A Vigilante” follows a once abused woman, Sadie (Wilde), who devotes herself to ridding victims of their domestic abusers. Morgan Spector, Kyle Catlett, C.J. Wilson, Tonye Patano, Chuck Cooper, Betsy Aidem, Judy Marte also star.

The film first premiered at the SXSW Film Festival in March, and was nominated for a SXSW Gamechanger Award.

Also Read: Netflix Acquires Genevieve Nnaji’s ‘Lionheart’ in Worldwide Deal

“Olivia plays a badass vigilante which is refreshing and relevant while also shining a much-deserved light on domestic abuse,” Saban Films CEO Bill Bromiley said in a statement. “This role shows a side of Olivia that we haven’t seen before and audiences will love.”

“A Vigilante” will be released theatrically by Saban in the first quarter of 2019 and will have a one-month exclusive window on DirecTV first.

Pulse Films’ Thomas Benski and Bryan Reisberg, Ted Farnsworth and Mitch Lowe, The Fyzz Facility’s Wayne Marc Godfrey, Robert Jones, Arnaud Lanic, and Babak Eftekhari, Highland Film Group’s Arianne Fraser, Delphine Perrier, and Henry Winterstein, Ted Fox, and Mark Stewart executive produced.

Also Read: Saban Films Picks Up U.S. Rights to Orlando Bloom’s ‘Romans’

Bill Bromiley and Jonathan Saba negotiated the deal for Saban Films, with Endeavor Content on behalf of the filmmakers.  Highland Film Group is representing international rights.

Last year at SXSW, Saban Films and DIRECTV acquired Eshom and Ian Nelms’ feature “Small Town Crime” starring John Hawkes and Octavia Spencer. The two companies continue to bolster their slate, most recently following Alexandre Moors’ “The Yellow Birds,” starring Tye Sheridan, Alden Ehrenreich, Toni Collette, and Jason Patric, Jack Huston and Jennifer Aniston.

Saban Films continues to be active in the acquisition and distribution space, since launching in 2014. The company most recently landed Ludwig and Paul Shammasian’s “Romans” starring Orlando Bloom.

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Saban also acquired a slew of films out of the Cannes Film Festival, including: “Between Worlds” starring Nicolas Cage; the anthology “Berlin, I Love You” with Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley and Jim Sturgess; the Gerard Butler starrer “Keepers;” and David L.G. Hughes’ “Viking Destiny.” Its current slate also includes: Craig William Macneill’s racy drama “Lizzie,” starring Chloë Sevigny and Kristen Stewart; and Ivan Kavanagh’s “Never Grow Old” starring John Cusack and Emile Hirsch.

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Sharon Horgan To Make Feature Directorial Debut With Focus’ ‘The New World’

Read on: Deadline.

EXCLUSIVE: Focus Features has secured the rights to develop and produce a feature version of Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz’s eponymous novel The New World. Sharon Horgan, who created HBO’s Divorce and co-created Pulling and Motherland for…

‘Life Itself’ New Trailer: Dan Fogelman Brings Together All-Star Cast in Tearjerker Movie (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

A new trailer for Dan Fogelman’s “Life Itself” has been released in which the “This Is Us” creator examines life’s perils and rewards.

“When I ask you out, it’s going to be the most important moment of my life — and I just want to make sure I get it right,” Oscar Isaac’s character tells Olivia Wilde’s.

The trailer is full of love, anger, tears — and a whole lot of punches.

See Video: Dan Fogelman’s ‘Life, Itself’ Trailer Debuts During ‘This Is Us’ Finale

“Life Itself” weaves together the stories of multiple characters who interact with one another stretching from New York to the Spanish countryside.

Directed and written by Fogelman, the movie stars Isaac, Wilde, Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening and Olivia Cooke.

Also Read: ‘This Is Us’ Creator Dan Fogelman’s ‘Life, Itself’ Heads to Amazon in $10 Million Deal

“Life Itself” was produced by Temple Hill’s Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey, along with FilmNation Entertainment’s Aaron Ryder and Fogelman.

“Life Itself” will hit theaters on September 21.

Watch the trailer above.

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