Movie Review: A Little Bit of Heaven
Length: 108 minutes
Released: May 4, 2012
Directed by: Nicole Kassell
Stars: 3 out of 5
If your life has ever been touched by cancer, especially terminal cancer, this movie will both touch your heart and challenge your emotions. When a movie takes on a painful subject like terminal illness, it is hard to know what to expect-other than oceans of tears. Still, this film manages to find some balance with touches of good humor and romance thrown in the mix. Starring Kate Hudson (Skeleton Key, Bride Wars) as Marley Corbett, the film opens with Corbett in the prime of her life. She is a stunningly beautiful woman with a fantastically successful career. As a successful advertising executive, she has been living a carefree and comfortable life in the Big Easy-New Orleans. She is happy, bold and full of the energy of life.
After having some problematic health symptoms, her doctor recommends a colonoscopy. During the procedure, the doctor discovers that she has a particularly serious form of colon cancer. In short, her life is nearly over. Still, Corbett begins chemotherapy treatment as she prepares to fight against her deadly disease. With the same exuberance and energy she has lived by, Corbett is prepared to fight. During her colonoscopy procedure, she fantasizes that she goes to heaven and meets God. God is played by Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple, Sister Act), who grants Marley Corbett three wishes. She also gives her the very sad and difficult news that her life is nearly over.
So what do you do when you know you are dying? That is the question that frames the rest of the film. One of the answers to that question may surprise audiences: Marley Corbett chooses to flirt with romance. The tantalizingly handsome Gael Garcia Bernal plays her marvelously attentive doctor, Dr. Julian Goldstein. Even the actor's name says delicious. His attention and compassion make the situation of the dying woman all the more complicated as the professional relationship that is supposed to help her cope with terminal illness becomes romantic. It's a little too complicated for an end-of-life scenario, as it's kind of hard to wrap up one's affairs in peace when a new love is being born. How can you easily let go of earthly life when a hunk like Gael Garcia Bernal is warm for your form? Still, the movie takes a detour into romance, which brings both tension and comedy to this high-volume tearjerker.
Marley has no shortage of support. Her controlling mother, played by Kathy Bates (Fried Green Tomatoes, Misery) does her best to support her daughter in her life and death. Even her estranged father, played by Treat Williams, emerges to offer his daughter support as she nears the end of her life. Her dear friend and neighbor, played by Romany Malco, tries to lighten the mood by purchasing her a visit from a male escort, who also happens to be a little person. His business name, "A Little Bit of Heaven," is where the movie gets its name, as well as some of its comedic relief.
For anyone who has dealt with terminal illness, "A Little Bit of Heaven" may be a little too painful to take. The subject of death from a terminal disease is one that can take you down a very dark road, and it may not be for someone who is already traveling it or who has this kind of experience in his or her recent past. At 108 minutes, it also seems that the film goes on just a little bit too long. Some of the last scenes of the movie are more forced than natural and almost take a bit too much out of the already emotionally exhausted audience. It's important to know when there is enough of a good thing.
Still, if you love romance and crying your eyes out in the dark, this movie might be for you. It is definitely an emotional ride, and one that will need to be taken with a full box, or maybe even several boxes, of very absorbent tissues. The film's screenwriter, Gren Wells, definitely knows how to draw lots of tears and the movie's director, Nicole Kassell, sculpts a production that will leave you emotionally spent. Some might say she relies a little too heavily on the movie's beautiful people, but there is plenty of charm and charisma to go around, as well. Kate Hudson is given a chance to show off her comedic genes as daughter of superstar comedian Goldie Hawn, but she also makes a mark for herself as someone who possesses both dramatic and comedic flair.