½* (out of four)
“Roses are red, violets are blue. I’ve got ass cancer, now you know too.”
After lying for a while and claiming to have mono, New Orleans advertising exec Marley (Kate Hudson) presents a homemade card with the above statement to her boss (Steven Weber) to come clean: She has colon cancer. Despite minimally depicted chemo and a brief clinical trial, it can’t be cured. Unfortunately, neither can the rampant unlikeability of a main character who sends her dog over to her mom, who’s caring for Marley and is allergic to dogs, and greets her Mexican/Jewish doctor Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal) for the first time by asking, “You look familiar; have we had sex?”
Perhaps “A Little Bit of Heaven” means to test our capacity for sympathy as we watch a self-involved person struggle with mortality. No, that’s not it. This movie—from a writer who received special thanks for the year’s worst movie so far (“L!fe Happens”) and whose only previous writing experience listed on IMDB is uncredited work on the 2001 “MTV Movie Awards”—focuses on a character who makes a joke out of everything and proceeds to make a mockery out of serious illness. Sending Marley an escort who is a little person (Peter Dinklage) for comic effect represents a major foul; the guy saying people call him “a little bit of heaven” is hitting the ball backwards out of the stadium. By the way: Scenes in which two people yell and pound on a door/bedframe/whatever and pretend to have sex have to stop. It’s been done. Enough.
The half-star comes for the warm supporting performances of Rosemarie DeWitt and Romany Malco, doing the best he can as the token gay, black friend. They join the rest of the surrounding cast in out-acting Hudson, whose constant self-congratulation confirms her as the future Sarah Jessica Parker. Hudson doesn’t do a thing to credibly suggest what it’s actually like to be in this situation, and not just because Marley dreams about meeting God, in the form of Whoopi Goldberg, who offers her three wishes.
I love a great love story. I absolutely loathe the phony ones, and the relationship between Marley and Dr. Goldstein, who’s supposedly forbidden from seeing patients and receives no consequences for breaking the rule, turns what’s meant to be a life-affirming connection into a depressing, only-in-the-movies crock. It would be awesome to see a romantic comedy in which the main female character expresses at the beginning, as Marley does, that she doesn’t need a man to be happy, and then actually holds onto that belief. “A Little Bit of Heaven” only believes that if you put two women in a car and have them sing along to a song on the radio (in this case, OK Go’s “Here It Goes Again”), the romantic comedy powers that be will smile upon us all. Not even close to close.
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