Film Review – A Little Bit of Heaven

A Little Bit of Heaven (M)

Directed by: Nicole Kassell

Starring: Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Kathy Bates, Whoopi Goldberg

Two stars

Review by: Julian Wright

 

There are few things more disappointing than when a film maker slips onto the scene with a powerful and challenging movie only to follow it up years later with a mediocre rom com. Director Nicole Kassell showed she had promise and guts to bring to screen the story of a pedophile trying to become a decent citizen in 2004’s The Woodsman. Her direction was simple, yet her vision was clear and Kevin Bacon, in the lead role, turned in one of the most astounding, albeit criminally overlooked, performances.

Kassell has since dabbled in the occasional television series episode but has made her feature film followup with this uninspired, clichéd and mostly unfunny disease of the week that is barely getting a theatrical release. What a disconcerting effort. Now there is nothing wrong with a film maker spreading their wings and exploring new territory or genres. But after exhibiting such talent, one must wonder why Kassell would compromise for this pay cheque job.

Marley Corbett (Kate Hudson) is a funky, frisky and fun-loving twenty-something that doesn’t need a man, except of course, for the occasional booty call after a night of partying. She is dominating at the advertising company where she works and despite some issues she has with her parents, she has plenty of close friends. Then she finds out she has colon cancer. What a downer.

But Marley believes there is no point in letting a bit of terminal cancer get you down so she continues to treat the news like a minor inconvenience, until she realises she wont experience a lot of things she wanted to. As she comes to terms with her own mortality, she and her doctor Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal) start to get lovey dovey. But oh no! Marley is supposed to be aloof!

No prizes for who guesses where all this goes. And usually with these kinds of films it is the journey to the inevitable, tear jerking ending that we all know is coming that is half the fun. However, the journey here, as spritely as Hudson tries to make it, is incredibly familiar. Hudson is pleasing to the senses, she is impossibly cute and likeable here. But a charming personality cannot sustain an entire film, particularly one that draws out its final third to painful lengths.

Not only is Kassell’s talent wasted behind the scenes, pros like Goldberg (in a cameo as God where even she doesn’t even look like she knows what she is doing there) Bates and Treat Williams do little more than walk there caricatured characters through the motions. While it sometimes takes the subject matter a little too lightly, credit where credit is due, this film does not betray itself. It shares Marley’s “Cancer? Meh” attitude up until the final shot.

 

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