Heaven Hardly Lives Up to Its Title
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 5 May
Release Date: May 4 (limited), also available to download on iTunes or watch on OnDemand
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, including crude references, and language)
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Drama
Run Time: 106 min.
Director: Nicole Kassell
Actors: Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kathy Bates, Peter Dinklage, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Whoopi Goldberg, Rosemarie DeWitt, Steven Weber, Treat Williams, Johann Urb
Let’s face it, falling in love never goes out of fashion. And thanks to every oh-so-cute contrivance in the romantic comedy playbook, audiences have now seen Kate Hudson land the guy of her dreams in everything from Something Borrowed to Bride Wars to the vastly superior How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days where she actually had some winsome chemistry with her leading man, Matthew McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer).
After a while, though, one would naturally assume that Hudson, once an Oscar nominee, would eventually tire of playing the same easy-breezy, free-spirited woman with charms so powerful that it’s veritable Kryptonite for every super man who crosses her path. But apparently that’s not the case. If anything, her choice of roles, like those Jennifer Aniston (Wanderlust) has signed up for recently, have only grown more questionable.
Case in point: A Little Bit of Heaven, a film that hardly lives up to its title. In addition to having a paper-thin plotline and a decidedly Lifetime made-for-TV feel (without any of the guilty pleasure fun, mind you), there’s also not a single laugh in all 106 minutes—a new rom-com record. Worse yet, our leading lady Marley (Hudson) is apparently the most upbeat terminal cancer patient (yes, you read that right) on the planet.
Before she’s officially diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer (cue countless opportunities for shameless scatological humor), Marley is modern cinema’s go-to female archetype, the woman who’s simply too busy and emotionally bankrupt to find love. In fact, Marley pretty much thinks of men as momentary pleasures, and in one particularly painful scene, we see the beefcakey guy sharing her bed practically begging for her to give commitment a chance.
Can you guess what she says? Yep, it’s starts with an “n” and ends with an “o.”
See, between finding new ways to market condoms to women (yes, that’s actually in her job description), babysitting her young niece and hooking up with random guys, Marley simply doesn’t have the time—or interest—in a long-term relationship. Well, until she meets Dr. Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal, Letters to Juliet), who just happens to be single, handsome, charming and the bearer of particularly bad news, namely that his new patient’s life will inevitably be cut short because of the aforementioned cancer.
And even though it’s against hospital policy for patients and doctors to date, that’s exactly what Marley and Julian do. Trouble is, the connection between the two of these people is curiously absent from the proceedings. While the idea that “opposites attract” has fueled many a love story, it’s simply impossible to buy these two as a couple, let alone Julian as the guy who suddenly makes monogamy seem appealing to the girl who’s been fighting it for so long.
Perhaps, the film’s greatest crime, however, is the embarrassingly casual manner that such a serious storyline plays out. For anyone who’s watched a loved one endure the horrors of life with terminal cancer, the way Marley makes such light of it in scene after scene is downright unwatchable. While her sunny disposition in the wake of such news is definitely a unique approach that probably makes her friends feel more comfortable, there are scenes where having cancer looks like a proverbial walk in the park (or in this film’s case, the opportunity for a glamorous shopping spree).
In the future, it’s just probably best for filmmakers to leave the plot lines where romance and cancer co-exist to Nicholas Sparks. After all, as hokey as it was, Mandy Moore was sure a lot more believable as someone dying in A Walk to Remember.
Somewhere in this mess of a movie, there was an opportunity for something better. While a storyline like this is rife with opportunities to grapple with how someone so young deals with such a grim diagnosis, everything fromWhoopi Goldberg’s cameo as God in Marley’s dreams, not to mention her conversation about whether God exists with Julian, has a cheap, Hallmark card sentimentality about it. At one point, you half expect Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” to start playing in the background, just to underscore the cheesiness.
But then again, maybe expecting something more substantial from a rom-com with Hudson in the lead is simply too much to ask. Whatever the case, trust me, watching it all play out is nothing more than an unnecessary exercise in frustration.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Social drinking depicted throughout.
- Language/Profanity: All the usual suspects are here, including the PG-13 maximum of two “f” words and instances where God’s name is taken in vain. When Marley misuses Jesus’s name, God, who’s played by Whoopi Goldberg in Marley’s dreams, makes sure to correct her. There’s also quite a bit of scatological humor related to Marley’s colonoscopy and eventual diagnosis of colon cancer.
- Sex/Nudity: Marley has a casual, no-strings-attached view when it comes to sex. In addition to plenty of sexually-oriented dialogue (including frank analysis of male and female genitalia), we see her in bed with several men in various stages of lovemaking. In one scene with Julian, we see most of his bare backside. One of Kate’s best guy friends is gay, and there’s a few jokes relating to his dating/sex life. After Marley’s diagnosis, Peter (Romany Malco, Think Like a Man) sends her a male escort, who happens to be a little person, to liven things up (Peter Dinklage, TV’s Game of Thrones). While Marley turns down his offer to have sex, they play a prank on Peter by making it sound (quite loudly, in fact) like they are. There’s also a lengthy scene in a burlesque club with cross-dressing dancers and scantily clad women (bare breasts are shown in shadow).
- Violence: None, but there are several unpleasant scenes related to Marley’s colon cancer. Let’s just say if you’re squeamish about needles, there are several scenes where you’ll want to avert your eyes.
Religion/Worldview: There’s a scene where Marley tells Julian that she wishes she believed in God because that would be such a nice way to live. When asked if he believes in God, Julian says that as a doctor, there isn’t any empirical evidence for God’s existence, but as a human being, he’d have to say that he simply doesn’t know. He’s open to the idea, though. In Marley’s dreams, God is a kind wish-granter with a sharp sense of humor and plenty of sage advice about living life to the fullest.
Christa Banister is a full-time freelancer writer, specializing in music, movies and books-related reviews and interviews and is the author of two novels, Around the World in 80 Dates and Blessed Are the Meddlers. Based in Dallas, Texas, she also weighs in on various aspects of pop culture on her personal blog. For more information, including her upcoming book signings and sample chapters of her novels, check out her Website.