Normal Life is a 1996 American crime drama film based on the real lives of husband-and-wife bank robbers, Jeffrey and Jill Erickson. The film stars Ashley Judd and Luke Perry and was directed by John McNaughton. The original screenplay was written by husband-and-wife team Peg Haller and Bob Schneider.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||John McNaughton|
|Produced by||Richard Maynard |
|Written by||Peg Haller |
|Music by||Robert McNaughton |
|Cinematography||Jean de Segonzac|
|Edited by||Elena Maganini|
|Distributed by||Fine Line Features|
Chris (Luke Perry), a young police officer meets the attractive and sexy Pamela (Ashley Judd) and immediately falls in love with her. Even her drug and alcohol problems cannot affect his mad love for her and they decide to marry. As the relationship continues, more problems arise. Their passionate love is accompanied by destructive fights and Pam's emotional problems start to surface. She shows no respect for Chris’s family members who are very important to him. Pam's also manipulative and exploits Chris’s love for her, leaving him to do all the chores and making him buy her expensive things until they are on the brink of bankruptcy.
Trouble escalates when Chris loses his job after trouble with a fellow officer. To finance Pam's lifestyle, Chris decides to earn a living by robbing banks. Pam's fascinated with his bank heists and begs him to tag along. After having finally robbed enough banks to afford a house of their own, Chris decides to stop a life of crime, much to Pam's chagrin. Pam soon leaves Chris who quickly finds himself unable to live without her. Chris then agrees to start robbing banks again, which proves to be fatal for the duo.
Producer Steven A. Jones read an article about Jeff Erickson a suspected bank robber, "when they went to capture him, this woman [wife Jill] started a huge gun battle with the FBI and led them on a chase through 12 different suburbs, hanging a machine gun out the window of her van. She ended up dead, ostensibly taking her own life after she was wounded." He another article related to the case in the New York Times, and knowing the author of the articles tried to contact him but was unable to get a response. The rights to the story had already been purchased by someone else to me, but coincidentally Jones received a screenplay about the couple from the husband-and-wife screenwriting team of Peg Haller and Bob Schneider and producer Richard Maynard, and they agreed to work together.
The William Morris talent agency said Luke Perry was interested in the lead role, and they also suggested Ashley Judd for the female lead. Perry was well known for the television series Beverly Hills, 90210 and Spelling Entertainment were willing to put up the money to make the film.
The distributor New Line Cinema were optimistic about the film at first. However, test audiences were not expecting a crime drama, instead they expected a Luke Perry movie to be similar to 90210 and reacted negatively. New Line declined to release the film. After director John McNaughton complained in the press, they gave the film a limited release for a week in New York and Los Angeles, and then the film went to HBO.
James Berardinelli in his article on reelviews.net: "Luke Perry, giving the most convincing performance of his career to date, makes it clear how desperately, hopelessly smitten Chris is by his wild, troubled wife." And finally: "By depicting the sham of 'normality,' Normal Life reminds us how fictitious and unattainable the 'American dream' can be."Roger Ebert gave the film 3.5 out of 4, called the film "fascinating in its portrait of criminal pathology" and praised the casting. Peter Sobczynski writes in an article titled "A Good Ashley Judd Film? Believe It or Not!": "[...] her single greatest performance-indeed, one of the strongest bits of film acting that you are ever likely to see-was in what probably remains the most obscure and least-seen film of her career, John McNaughton's 1996 masterpiece Normal Life."
The film was released to DVD in February 2005.
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- Ford, Luke (March 5, 2002). "Profile of Producer Steven A. Jones". Retrieved January 17, 2014.
- Ebert, Roger (October 25, 1996). "Normal Life movie review & film summary (1996)". Chicago Sun-Times.
- "Normal Life (1996)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
- James, Berardinelli. "Normal Life: A Film Review by James Berardinelli". reelviews.net.
- McCarthy, Todd (12 February 1996). "Normal Life". Variety.
- Sobczynski, Peter (2005-02-18). "DVD Reviews for 2/18: A Good Ashley Judd Film? Believe It or Not!". efilmcritic.com.