Movie review: 'Life as We Know It' hits home for Heigl

Ed Symkus

Katherine Heigl’s latest film, the romantic comedy “Life as We Know It,” could have been called “Life as She Knows It.” In the film, which opens Friday, Heigl plays Holly, a single woman forced to raise her best friend’s baby.

While filming was under way, Heigl, 31, was herself becoming a mother. She and her singer/songwriter husband, Josh Kelly, had adopted a baby girl, Naleigh, from Korea last September.

“It was all parallels,” says the perky Heigl, best known for her roles as Izzie on “Grey’s Anatomy” and opposite Seth Rogen in the comedy “Knocked Up.”

“I was living on camera what I was living in my life, down to the tiniest little things. I watched the movie recently and it was like a living journal. It reminds me of those first few months with my (then) 9-month-old baby,” Heigl said. “She was so new to me, and I was so new to her, and all the things that go along with that; like what kind of diapers we were using, what kind of wipes we used.

"We even had the same Pack ’n Play we had in the movie. That time was really intense and really glorious and certainly overwhelming. But Holly was me and I was her. I didn’t even have to act.”

Sophie, the baby in the film, becomes the responsibility of her godparents, Holly and Messer (played by Josh Duhamel). They were friends of Sophie’s parents, who die in a car crash. Holly and Messer had gone on a date once and quickly found they couldn’t stand each other.

“But they’re really good people trying to do the right thing,” said Heigl. “They don’t necessarily like each other, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have big hearts. They go through something that’s horrible and tragic but don’t have time to address it or deal with it because they’re way in over their heads. But they don’t shy away from it. They try to walk through that fire and try to do right by these people they loved, and by this child they love.”

Sophie was played by a set of triplets (Alexis, Brynn and Brooke Clagett), each of who displayed different moods and temperaments. Duhamel had the luxury of getting to know the babies for a few weeks before filming began. Heigl, because she was so involved with her adoption, got there at the last minute and jumped right in.

“I took control. It’s an alpha thing, like with animals. They just have to know who’s in charge,” Heigl said, laughing. “No, thankfully I had just gotten familiar with the holding and the comforting of a child, so I could kind of do that mother instinct thing a little bit. But it was still really new to me.

"There’s also a lot of just letting it go. If they’re cranky or tired or uncomfortable or crying, the more uptight you get, the more uptight you’re gonna make them. So we had to do a lot of breathing exercises and just stay calm and be patient and not take it personally. They didn’t like me as much as they liked Josh, but at least I had one in my trailer who did.”

The film manages to share moments of both humor and tragedy and tips over the edge into slapstick with a plentiful supply of poop gags. Heigl is by now quite familiar with that part of raising a child and is ever ready to share some of her adventures.

“In the beginning, when they’re little, it’s not that bad,” Heigl said. “But now she’s almost 2, and she really needs to get potty trained. This is now grown-up kind of pooping. Yesterday I was in an airplane, and they didn’t have one of those fold-down changing tables in the tiny bathroom. I had to lay her across the toilet and kneel below her. It was brutal. And the smell was ... I was thinking, what did you eat? So now I’m committed to potty training.”