A Little Bit of Heaven
dir Nicole Kassell
scr Gren Wells
prd John Davis, Mark Gill, Robert Katz, Neil Sacker, Adam Schroeder
with Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kathy Bates, Lucy Punch, Rosemarie DeWitt, Romany Malco, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Dinklage, Treat Williams, Alan Dale, Steven Weber, Jason Davis
release UK 4.Feb.11
11/US 1h46
A Little Bit of Heaven
Hard to swallow: Garcia Bernal and Hudson

bates punch dewitt
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
A Little Bit of Heaven Shot in the style of a bland Hollywood rom-com, this film is actually a weepie drama with a bit of magical realism thrown in. It's such an odd hybrid that we're never sure whether we should laugh or cry. So we do neither.

Marley (Hudson) is a high-flying New Orleans advertising exec who doesn't believe that romance is necessary. Although she does have loyal friends: ditsy colleague Sarah (Punch), happy family woman Renee (DeWitt) and cheerful neighbour Peter (Malco). On the other hand, she tries to avoid to her estranged, warring parents (Bates and Williams). Then during a medical test, she has a vision of God (Goldberg), who grants her three wishes before she dies of cancer. But she certainly isn't seeking the love that grows between her and Julian (Garcia Bernal), her doctor.

The film's first act plays like a standard PG-13 romantic comedy, with tame innuendo and fake sex, zany friends and colleagues, and an adorable bulldog. Then you start to notice that Hudson is looking puffy and tired: cue the medical diagnosis. From here, the serious drama takes over, lightened by moments of silly comedy and cute affection. There are also some wrenchingly realistic emotional moments along the way, which work mainly because the cast is actually very good at playing these scenes.

So it's a shame that the script just skims the surface, never quite creating believable situations. Generating laughs (or even smiles) in the middle of such a sad story certainly isn't easy, but the filmmakers completely miss the chance to turn this into a black comedy, going for obvious gags and maudlin sentimentality instead.

Watching this film is almost like an out-of-body experience: we see what's happening and imagine how we might feel if these things were happening to us, and we believe the strongly emotional responses of each character, but we feel absolutely nothing for them. The love is sweet mainly because Garcia Bernal is such an unusual romantic lead, a charming nerd who wins us over just like Julian wins over Marley. But by the time the drawn-out finale finally comes, we're just glad to get out of the cinema.

cert 12 themes, language, some sexuality 1.Feb.11

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© 2011 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall