Marley Corbett (Hudson) is young, beautiful, and wildly funny, but she's afraid of opening herself up to true love and commitment. Though she uses her humor to prevent matters from getting serious, a life-changing visit to her doctor (Bernal) sends both of them on an eye-opening adventure of mutual discovery, leading to revelations neither thought possible.
Marley (Kate Hudson) is young, beautiful, full of energy, and always up for a good time. She avoids relationships with men once they start to get complicated, and that usually happens very quickly. Her friendships are strong, more similar to family, and she has just been made vice president at the advertising firm she works for, selling stuffy corporate men with new racy ideas, for such products as condoms. Marley is "that girl," the one everyone wants to be around, until everything changes. Because, well, Marley has just been diagnosed with colon cancer, and she is going to die.
Director Nicole Kassell and screenwriter Gren Wells have taken the comedic approach to Marley's illness, infusing the story with attempts at humor to downplay the tragic circumstances that befall Marley. The issue at hand is that the comedy does not work, not even remotely. The entire film shows Marley struggling with cancer, going through treatments that fail, reconciling with her parents, and dealing with friendships that are strained because of her condition. A visit with God, whom she envisions as Whoopi Goldberg (as herself), finds Marley given three wishes--two that she quickly wastes on trivial things. It is the third wish that should change the dynamics of the film, making it a romantic comedy with a tragic love story ending. Marley's love interest, Doctor Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal), is charming when he smiles, but they share little to no chemistry. The greater half of the film that focuses on the love story is then dissatisfying, especially since it refuses to let go of the ridiculous need for terrible jokes and focus on the dramatic side of the story.
It is in the melodrama that A Little Bit Of Heaven actually does succeed. Had the filmmakers went for the "woman's weepie" approach, and ditched the comedy, it would have made for a stronger more enjoyable film--as much so as is possible when the subject matter is dire. The final scenes of the film are heartbreaking, watching Marley and those she loves struggle with her impending death. A Little Bit Of Heaven has a strong story line hidden inside of it, full of emotions, drama, and important things to be said about facing death and remembering life. It is unfortunate then that the filmmakers conceived it as a comedy, damning it from the beginning.
There are two jokes (mainly) in A Little Bit Of Heaven that continually torture the viewer because neither one is funny, or the least bit entertaining. Main character Marley (Kate Hudson) has colon cancer, so it is obvious the jokes are going to surround this topic since her character approaches everything in her life as part of a larger joke. In another film, with a stronger screenplay, and stronger direction it is possible colon cancer could be funny. In this film every joke falls flat before the entire joke is even completed by Marley. A greeting card announcing her "ass cancer" to her boss only digs the knife in deeper at just how the humor in A Little Bit Of Heaven does not work, ever.
There is one other joke that also muddles up the film. Marley's doctor, and love interest, Julian (Gael Garcia Bernal) is constantly being pressed by Marley to tell a joke. He cannot tell one to save his life. The "two men walk into a bar..." is the style he is aiming for, and while he is supposed to not be able to complete the punchline the humor that should be found in his inabilities is missing. Instead you cringe at the fact that a talented actor such as Gael Garcia Bernal is having to recite such awful lines of dialogue; and he incredibly uncomfortable doing so. Making matters worse is trying to make a joke out of his being a Jewish Mexican doctor. Lucy Punch does her best to try and lighten the mood and bring some actual comedy to the film but again, it all falls flat, even with her exaggerated facial expressions. The funniest bit of A Little Bit Of Heaven may indeed be the fact that the synopsis states Marley is "wildly funny." She is not, and neither is anyone else.
Drama, Comedy, Romance
May 4, 2012