Chasing Life's Marrowing Tale Draws To A (Midseason) Close
How well has Chasing Life earned its emotional cliffhanger?
We've seen a lot of different versions of cancer patients on TV, from Tragic Teen (Degrassi) to Wacky Misanthrope (The Big C) to Robot-Fleeing President Of Humanity (Battlestar Galactica). Basically Level-Headed Young Adult is one I haven't seen a lot, which is why I was intrigued by Chasing Life -- that and the fact that April, our patient, has been diagnosed with a form of leukemia rather than breast cancer, popular on TV for its sexual implications. And as the show heads into its midseason hiatus, I'm not gaga over it -- any show with a cancer plotline will have to work pretty hard to top Kristina's arc on Parenthood for me -- but it's hooked me enough to make me tune back in when the show returns, for which its producers owe Scott Michael Foster a nice muffin basket bonus.
I can't quite call Foster a Dealmaker -- not after The River, and Zero Hour, and Melissa & Joey, and...bro, Californication? But if he'd made his first appearance on Halt And Catch Fire just a bit sooner, I might not have bailed. I've liked Foster since Greek, and luckily for me, Chasing Life's Leo is basically Cappie + Tumour x Money, which has been a lot of fun to watch; his acceptance of his illness and commitment not just to enjoying whatever time he has left but also being a one-man Make A Wish Foundation for his support-group friends have given April a new perspective on her own diagnosis, and helped her determine that she does want to go a different way by treating her cancer aggressively.
The problem is that, though Italia Ricci is probably doing her best as April, she can't match Foster's charisma, and there have been a lot of transitions from Leo scenes to not-Leo scenes that made me wish this were a show about him instead of April. The uneven casting has made some characters a trial to watch (Brenna) when others (George) are played by performers who know what they're doing. (I seriously would have guessed that this was one of Haley Ramm's first professional jobs, but no; I guess either she's been better directed before or she's a studio head's niece.) Ricci's limited capacity was not as noticeable opposite the equally cute, equally blank Richard Brancatisano as Dominic; when she's opposite Foster, the imbalance is impossible to ignore.
Acting aside, the story has been interesting as it's methodically walked the viewer through what a cancer diagnosis might be like for a person in April's situation as part of a family still mourning a fairly recent loss, and at her stage of life -- single and just starting to get some big breaks professionally. She wants to continue being a support to her mom; she's leery of treatment that will take her off track at work. Through it all, April's hair always looks great, her outfits are on point, and I assume the casting call for the role included "Must look very pretty when crying."
As for that cliffhanger: I assume I've already tipped my hand as to how I would want it to resolve, even if Leo himself advises April that he's not really a horse she should be betting on. But maybe that's why there has to be such a huge personality gap (in terms of having one) between Leo and Dominic: in order for us to believe that April would consider Leo a romantic prospect at all, given that he's in the process of dying, he'd have to be something pretty special, and he is. There aren't many characters on this show who could leave April half a voicemail that would be enough to make me tune back in just to hear the other half, but such is the magic of Scott Michael Foster, and if his new role as Kristoff in the new season of Once Upon A Time means he's out on Chasing Life, I probably am too.
Sorry, April. I'd still go sweater-shopping with you, though!