My Life in Ruins
My Life in Ruins (UK title: Driving Aphrodite) is a 2009 romantic comedy film set amongst the ruins of ancient Greece, starring Nia Vardalos, Richard Dreyfuss, Alexis Georgoulis, Rachel Dratch, Harland Williams and Alistair McGowan. The film is about a tour guide whose life takes a personal detour, while her group gets entangled in comic situations among the ruins, with a series of unexpected stops along the way. The film was released on June 5, 2009 in the United States, and May 7, 2009 in Greece.
|My Life in Ruins|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Donald Petrie|
|Produced by||Michelle Chydzik|
|Written by||Mike Reiss|
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||José Luis Alcaine|
|Edited by||Patrick J. Don Vito|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures |
Echo Bridge Entertainment
|Box office||$20.5 million|
Georgia (Nia Vardalos) is a Greek American teacher who came to Greece to teach at a local college about Classic Greece. However, budget cuts caused her to be laid off and forced her to get a job as tour guide. She believes she has hit rock bottom when she loses her passion in everything. Informed by her boss, Maria (Bernice Stegers), that she ranks poorly as a guide because the tourists think she's boring, Georgia finds herself leading a tour around Greece with an assorted group of misfit tourists whom she believes is a failure since they seem to care more about buying T-shirts than learning about history and culture. Instead, she wishes to have a good group of Canadian tourists whom seems to be more engaged in history and culture than wanting to go shopping for souvenirs and hang out at the beach. Maria disagrees with Georgia's assessment, informing her that they are more interested in Nico (Alistair McGowan), a rival male tour guide also working for Maria because he's engaging in tours. As Georgia's tour departs, her driver is injured in an accident and is replaced by another driver, Poupi (Alexis Georgoulis).
In a clash of personalities and cultures, everything seems to go wrong and Georgia is on the verge of quitting as she can't connect with the group to get them to appreciate Greece and its culture. This is made worse when she voices her disgust with Maria for favoring Nico over her in letting his group stay in better hotels than her group. After being ignored again, Georgia decides to send a letter to inform her that she's quitting at the end of her tour and Maria can find another tour guide more tolerant to her and Nico.
One day, an older traveller named Irv Gideon (Richard Dreyfuss), helps Georgia see why she can't connect with the group: she finds them annoying and is bored with her current job. Therefore, he shows her how to have fun and teach her how to be more engaging to the tourists. This helps Georgia learn more about the current group of tourists she has and open her eyes to the different places where they come from. In doing so, she also teaches them the origins of the Olympic Games, which they take genuine interest in. While they become more immersed in Greek culture, Poupi begins to show interest in Georgia. However, Georgia's antics distract him while driving, and he narrowly avoids causing an accident on the road. At the hotel they're staying at, Georgia's attractive female members of her group manages to stall a hurt Nico as Georgia, Irv and Poupi secretly sabotage his tour bus by stealing the air conditioning from it to install in her own bus. As the group begins to enjoy themselves at the beach, Irv becomes sick and they take him to the hospital. Georgia is unsure if she should continue and is concerned for Irv's health until Poupi encourages her to do so.
During her group's tour of the Parthenon, Georgia tells them why she likes coming there because at the right time, she could feel the wind from the ruins. While his own group looks around, Nico confronts Georgia and her group. Georgia realizes she ended up with the better group when he reveals that without air conditioning on his tour bus, Nico got a serious headache from having to hear his group complaining the entire time and he never bothered getting to know them. When Nico openly insults his group in front of Georgia and her group by calling them Americans, the Canadians are offended by this and start trying to beat him up. Georgia and her group visit the hospital where Irv is recovering well. At night when the group is celebrating the farewell party at a Greek buffet, Maria confronts Georgia for the letter and convinces her to stay with a promise of a raise after she produces the review logs with good reviews with her current group of tourists. She even admitted that she was glad Nico quit since she never liked being around him and only tolerated Nico because she knew his parents very well. Georgia begins a relationship with Poupi.
- Nia Vardalos as Georgia Ianakopolis
- Richard Dreyfuss as Irv Gideon
- Alexis Georgoulis as Poupi Kakas
- Alistair McGowan as Nico
- Harland Williams as Big Al Sawchuck
- Rachel Dratch as Kim Sawchuck
- Caroline Goodall as Dr. Elizabeth Tullen
- Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Stewart Tullen
- Sophie Stuckey as Caitlin Tullen
- María Botto as Lala
- María Adánez as Lena
- Brian Palermo as Marc Mallard
- Jareb Dauplaise as Gator
- Simon Gleeson as Ken
- Natalie O'Donnell as Sue
- Sheila Bernette as Dorcas
- Ralph Nossek as Barnaby
- Bernice Stegers as Maria
- Rita Wilson as Elinor
- Ian Gomez as Hotel Clerk (as Ian Gómez)
The script is originally by Mike Reiss (The Simpsons, The Simpsons Movie), based on his travel experiences, but it was later re-written by Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding) after she became involved. The film was co-produced by Gary Goetzman and Tom Hanks, and is directed by Donald Petrie. Vardalos has stated that the film was a lifelong dream of hers for she had always wanted to do a film in her family's ancestral homeland.
The film is set on location in Greece and Alicante, in Spain, including Guadalest and Javea. This was the first time that an American film studio was allowed to film on location at the Acropolis; the Greek government gave the studio its approval after Vardalos sought permission to film several scenes there. Other Greek filming locations include Olympia, Delphi, and Epidaurus.
The official US trailer by Fox Searchlight Pictures was released on January 7, 2009. The film premiered on June 5, 2009, and took in $3.2 million, placing it ninth of ten for American box office income in its three-day opening weekend. After 17 days of its release, My Life In Ruins took in gross sales of $8,500,270 in the United States. In Greece, the film grossed $1,549,303 1st in its three-day opening weekend, placing it first in sales for the weekend. After a month, sales stood at $1,871,896 placing it 8th in the yearly Greek box office. Canadian ticket sales for My Life In Ruins came in at $777,290.
"Given the wildly enthusiastic audience response, we are thrilled to be distributing the film. Nia's enormous box office appeal[s] along with her gift of perfect comedic timing make for a winning combination. Producers Michelle Chydzik Sowa, Nathalie Marciano, Gary Goetzman, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Peter Safran have proven that films with broad audience appeal can still be made independently."
Critics reacted more negatively. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 9% based on 124 reviews, and an average rating of 3.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "With stereotypical characters and a shopworn plot, My Life in Ruins is a charmless romantic comedy." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 34 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Roger Ebert was unequivocal, in his review of June 3, 2009 :
Rarely has a film centered on a character so superficial and unconvincing, [and] played with such unrelenting sameness. I didn't hate it so much as feel sorry for it ... The central question posed by "My Life in Ruins" is, what happened to the Nia Vardalos who wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding? She was lovable, earthy, sassy, plumper, more of a mess, and the movie grossed more than $300 million. Here she's thinner, blonder, better dressed, looks younger and knows it. She's like the winner of a beauty makeover at a Hollywood studio. She has that don't touch my makeup! look ... Now she is rich, famous and perhaps taking herself seriously after being worked over for one too many magazine covers ... There is, in short, nothing I liked about "My Life in Ruins," except some of the ruins.
Scott Foundas, writing in The Village Voice (June 2, 2009), agreed:
My Life in Ruins Is Nia Vardalos' Strangely Self-Loathing Anti-Comeback: Substitute "career" for "life" in the title of this stillborn travelogue comedy, and you'll have a succinct verdict on My Big Fat Greek Wedding writer/star Nia Vardalos, whose efforts to prove herself more than a one-megahit wonder have been greeted by audiences with an apathy previously reserved for the post–Crocodile Dundee oeuvre of Paul Hogan ... the result, written by The Simpsons alum Mike Reiss and directed (in a manner of speaking) by Grumpy Old Men's Donald Petrie, is a strangely self-loathing affair that paints Vardalos's tour group as a uniformly ill-mannered, culturally illiterate bunch, while rendering Greece itself as a badly plumbed third-world hellhole run by lazy, Zorba-dancing louts.
BEWARE Greek-Canadians bearing comeback vehicles. At least if they're Nia Vardalos, who quickly disappeared from sight after improbably turning 2002's My Big Fat Greek Wedding into the most successful romantic comedy of all time. Notably thinner, less awkward and a lot less charming, Vardalos is back with "My Life in Ruins," a desperate, crass and probably futile attempt at replicating the earlier movie's fluke success. This limp souvlaki of a movie is served without any noticeable enthusiasm by director Donald Petrie (Grumpy Old Men).
... maybe they [the Greek Government] read the script and they thought, 'This is a shocker'. And it is so bad, this film ... the Australian characters are unbelievable throwbacks to another era ... everybody is awful. And, unfortunately, she's [Vardalos] disconcertingly like Sarah Palin, and this really threw me during the film. But it's just such a crass [film] - and all these jokes about Poupi's name. That's supposed to be funny.
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