Monday, September 28, 2015

REVIEW: 'Chasing Life' - April Plans a Trip to Italy Just as Life at Home Gets More Complicated in 'La Dolce Vita'

ABC Family's Chasing Life - Episode 2.13 "La Dolce Vita"

Whether it's the Italian honeymoon that never happened, the unchecked item on her bucket list, or her lack of inspiration, all signs point April to Rome. Caught up in the midst of family drama, April faces too many distractions that keep her from making progress on her book. But will April find the inspiration she seeks in Rome, or will this trip lead her down another path?

It's such a relief for April that she is finally able to take a trip to Italy for the honeymoon she never got to have with Leo. Sure, it's a little strange that Dr. Hamburg is fine with such international travel considering the side effects traveling has previously done on April. But it's still so rewarding for her to just escape her life for a little bit. Things are so tense with family drama, her book and her diminishing health back home. In Italy, she doesn't have to think about all of that. She can just enjoy life with her two best friends - Beth and Dominic. Of course, it's a sobering moment as well. April realizes she has done everything that she wanted to do with her life before dying. That could be a scary prospect. But she is at peace with that. She would be content if she died sometime during this vacation. She would have no more regrets.

April's proclamations about death should be enough for Beth and Dominic to be slightly worried about April. They could see this as her giving up. Treatment continues to fail for her. Her only option left is a surgery that isn't the optimal choice according to Dr. Hamburg. It's the only thing left that she can do. Otherwise, she might as well just be content and happy with the final days of her life. That's a traumatizing fact to hear. April doesn't want to die. She wants to fight and continue to enjoy life. Her trip to Italy does put things a little bit into perspective for her though. She is at peace with her life. If she should die, she would be fine with it. This trip has made her think about life in the biggest scope. All the little worries don't matter anymore. She has lived her life the way she has wanted to. That's empowering and an interesting place to leave the character at the end of this season.

This has been a very up and down season for April. She got married to Leo only to lose him shortly afterwards. She has been in mourning while still doing her best to fight cancer. Her family is still living their lives. George shared the truth about what really happened to Thomas all those years ago. Natalie feels like she's been betrayed by everyone in this family. Sara has picked up running as a hobby. Beth is pushing forward as a working professional while also completely taken aback by the news that she's pregnant. Brenna has fallen in love with Finn despite his health failing as well.

Despite all of this story that all comes to a head in this finale, it's very interesting that the show is exploring a romantic relationship between April and Dominic again. They probably never stopped having feelings for each other. But it was so much better to get caught up in the big love story between April and Leo instead. Their love was an amazing story engine. The show certainly lost something special after Leo was killed suddenly. April and Dominic aren't bad as a romantic couple but they are no where close to being April and Leo. It's also still very awkward for her to be exploring this relationship. It still feels too soon since Leo's passing. And yet, the show is very encouraging of it and so is Sara who basically says that Dominic may be the guy for her because "he will stick by you." Because Leo certainly had a choice between staying with April and dying. That didn't sit all that well. But it was all a part of the show getting the two of them to say that they still have feelings for one another.

And yet, April and Dominic work so much better as friends. When they aren't forced into some grand romantic pairing, their chemistry is much more natural and fun. It's great watching him teach her how to play guitar. It's even better when April, Beth and Dominic are just roaming around Rome having a blast. That kind of energy is great for the show. Dominic can still be a good guy and stand by April during this dark time without being a romantic interest. But he wants to know if there's any hope for a future. That's a somewhat foolish question considering April doesn't know how much longer she has left to live. She is just enjoying the moment - which is what so many other characters should do as well. Sure, not everyone can drop everything completely and run away to Italy to escape their lives. Brenna has school and relationship troubles while Sara and George need to deal with Olivia trying to release Thomas' last novel. Those plots create excitement and intrigue for the show in this final episode of the year. But so much of the appeal comes from the understanding of this being April's journey and the emotions she's feeling during this stressful and uncertain time. That's what makes this finale work. It is a jumbled mess but it still is able to do so much right by its leading lady.

Some more thoughts:
  • "La Dolce Vita" was written by Patrick Sean Smith & Jared Frieder and directed by Steve Miner.
  • Brenna learns that she might have been Finn's stem cell donor. He decides they need to take some time apart so that he can focus on getting better and potentially have a life with the girl he's falling for. But this latest discovery - which the audience has known the whole time - certainly makes it feel like they were meant to be together.
  • Greer also returns to announce that she is moving back to Boston. That twist felt like it came up to give Brenna a different option for her future. It still fells like she's running towards Finn in the end though.
  • Olivia and Natalie threaten to tell the police the truth about Thomas' death if they don't get to release his last novel and collect all the money from it which could also expose George's secret. Natalie is able to call it off in order to protect the family. But the police still show up at the house looking for George. Olivia really must be a very scorned woman by this news.
  • Good on Sara for demanding to be in on the conversation between George and Olivia about the release of the book. She knows the secret and wants to help protect it and her family.
  • So it seems that Beth is going to keep the baby. It may be a scary and painful experience for her. She certainly didn't have the best childhood. But her boyfriend Josh is supportive of her no matter what she decides. That's the first sign that things may work out for them.
  • April's cute doctor was so great until he started bluntly talking about her being out of options and will probably die soon.
  • ABC Family hasn't ordered any more episodes of the show. This episode clearly isn't meant to be the end of the show but it could be. If it is, it is a good enough conclusion regarding the emotional peace April finds in Italy. But too much is left open-ended for this to truly be all there is.