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MOVIE REVIEW: 'L!fe Happens' turns out to be both raunchy, heartfelt

L!fe Happens

(R)

3 out of 4 stars

Mixing the better elements of "Knocked Up," "Bridesmaids" and the new sitcom "Two Broke Girls," the cutesy titled "L!fe Happens" pulls off the semi-amazing feat of simultaneously being raunchy and heartfelt. Yes, its pure chick flick but, thanks to the looks and past performances of the three principal female characters, a good deal of men are going to check it out as well.

The raven-haired, alabaster-skinned Krysten Ritter stars as Kim, a semi-ditzy party girl who, in tandem with roommate Deena (Kate Bosworth), make it their mission to sleep with every guy they meet. In the aftermath of a night of debauchery where Deena staked claim to the last condom in their apartment, Kim finds herself pregnant. Wholly unprepared for motherhood, Kim nonetheless forges ahead with good cheer and dedication to her child.

After close to two years since hitting the clubs or being with a man, Kim decides it's time to get back on the horse but like so many other single mothers is shocked to learn many potential male suitors would rather get a sharp flaming stick in the eye than date a woman with a toddler. Never one to be mistaken as an overachiever, Kim soon finds out that having a child also drastically limits her employment options and grudgingly takes a position as personal assistant to Francesca (Kristen Johnston), a wealthy and delusional socialite who is 50 going on 18.

One night when working the door at a networking cocktail party hosted by Francesca, Kim meets Nicolas (Geoff Stults), a strapping, seemingly normal guy whose only possible fault could be the fact that he chooses to hang out with the slovenly Henri (Justin Kirk).

Realizing that Nicolas could be a keeper, Kim -- in a moment of panic -- tells him the child that lives in her apartment is Deena's. This works out in the short run for Deena who will do anything to stave off Henri's relentlessly oafish advances. In the long run however, Kim's omission is cumbersome and a mental drag that could prove to be the wedge to separate her from both Deena and Nicolas.

Co-written by Ritter and first-time feature director Kat Coiro, "L!fe Happens" contains most of the necessary chick-flick ingredients, but all of them in odd measurements. There's plenty of tension but it's never catty and no one is interested in bagging anyone else's partner. The profanity, bodily function humor and sexual banter are always blunt, but never calculating, mean-spirited or bludgeoning. The writers know their subjects, how they think and talk and make them instantly relatable without turning them into stock caricatures.

For Ritter, this film along with her own soon-to-start sitcom ("Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23"), could finally catapult her into the big leagues. For 10 years or so she's appeared in a half dozen TV series, and close to three dozen films, but "L!fe" and "23" are her first lead roles. Easily passable as Anne Hathaway's sister, her gorgeous features and ability to do drama and comedy with equal conviction make her a natural fit to be the next "it" girl.

In the business a tad longer than Ritter, the blonde Bosworth's interchangeable, generic girl-next-door looks have actually hurt her career. It also hasn't helped that her choices in both mainstream and art-house projects up to this point have been terrible. With Deena, Bosworth lets fly with must be a decades' worth of professional frustration and turns in the performance of her career. Her comic timing is pitch-perfect and she steals every scene in which she appears.

Although given very limited screen time, Rachel Bilson (remember "The O.C.?") as third roommate Laura makes the most of every second. Responsible for delivering the movie's sole reoccurring joke, Bilson is a virgin who bounces from one high-paying part-time job to another all of which require her to act like a brain-dead floozy. It's another example of the writers walking a fine line between satire and exploitation and to Bilson's immense credit she plays it tongue-in-cheek the entire time.

Oddly, it is the first 10 and last five minutes of the movie that don't work as well as they could, with one stretch being too whacky and the other being too sincere. Luckily there's a nice stretch between the bookends that more than makes up for any of these minor shortcomings. (PMK-BNC)