Riddled with high concept, this florid adaptation of Laura Kasischke's 2002 novel is a horror picture of sorts that plays off a Columbine-style high-school shooting from the victims' point of view. For all I know, the author, who's also a poet, took a delicate approach to this fraught conceit, but moviegoers may mistake The Life Before Her Eyes for an unduly long L'Oréal commercial featuring softly lit film stars moving languidly with swinging hair through overbearingly premonitory weather. All but derailed by director Vadim (House of Sand and Fog) Perelman's fondness for the slow-motion sequence, Life stars Evan Rachel Wood, shortchanging her considerable talent yet again, as Diana, a troubled small-town teen whose undisciplined appetites are tempered by her friendship with churchgoing good girl Maureen (Eva Amurri, giving her all to a thankless task). Fifteen years after the two friends are improbably commanded by the high-school shooter to choose which of them should die, Diana, played by Uma Thurman in various attitudes of vague distress, is living a golden life edged with portents of Something Amiss. A twist that offers fertile potential for subtle meditation on growing up, conscience, and roads not traveled ends up buried beneath insect metaphors, lurid flashbacks, and a thunderstorm that creaks with the climax to come.
Wood before Life makes waves.
Opens at Guild 45, Fri., April 25. Rated R. 90 minutes.