48. A Little Bit of Heaven, directed by Nicole Kassell

48. A Little Bit of Heaven, directed by Nicole Kassell

Love And Other Drugs

By Rose Marel

Which is more important? To see the fun in things, or to take things more seriously? When it comes to life, enjoyment and seriousness can overlap but at some point, as with important events or issues, you may be forced one way or the other. When does seriousness become soul-destroying, and when does flippancy become unwise? Given life’s transience – a fact that we all know, but constantly choose to forget – maybe somewhere in the middle is best. It’s a lesson that Marley doesn’t even realise she needs, until difficult circumstances humbly sit her down.

You see, Marley (the eternally effervescent Kate Hudson), prefers indulging in the brevity of life, in both attitude and action. She’s wild and playful; the type to recklessly drink until 4am the night before an important work meeting, only to nevertheless nail it with her self-assurance and inherent smarts. She’s that woman who inspires envy in her ability to wing it like no other; she’s the one who, almost by lack of caring, has the most fun.

Marley shuns societal expectations of marriage and children, instead basking in the glory of independent freedom and self-chosen promiscuity. Reversing traditional roles, she unashamedly booty calls, while batting away the need for anything more. She flirts with just about anything, but particularly with the messiness of life, preferring to reside on that edge, a free-spirit who rides her bike (hungover) through a breeze that tousles her golden locks like a wind machine.

The movie is quick to establish this. Indeed, the first (and only) advertising pitch we’re invited into is one for condoms, in an instant allusion to her sexual confidence and feminist slant. Gravitating towards Marley is the equally fun, though slightly more distanced, Renee (Rosemarie DeWitt) who, as a mother, finds it difficult at times to remain connected to such a care-free viewpoint. In terms of the serious/fun spectrum, Rosalind sits more naturally on the former end, maybe because she’s been sobered by motherhood and is willing to get down to the nitty gritty.

Image result for a little bit of heaven

One sly reference to Marley’s shrinking boobs leads us to the doctor’s office, where things soon take a solemn turn. The whole deviation is completely out of the blue in our eyes, and when Marley mentions she’s (apparently) been troubled by some fatigue and bleeding, it’s the first we’ve seen or heard of it. The subsequent diagnostic colonoscopy delivers some harrowing news. But before that, it should be mentioned that Marley’s doctor (Gael García Bernal) is one Grade-A-looking specimen, and Marley is as much an irresistible flirt under anaesthetic as she ever is (just listen to her laugh, which has the radiance of the sun bursting forth from behind a cloud).

A bizarre hop into a celestial, epiphanic-type space is the meeting ground for Marley and Whoopi Goldberg – a sort of ‘I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-God God’ – in a conceit that shreds any type of realism thus far established. If this weren’t enough, Whoopi grants Marley three wishes, appropriating herself as more of a Genie than a God,even as white satin continues to billow and bask the pair in flattering light. During this brief meeting, Marley also learns she has cancer. And so the film shifts again, on a kind of tonal tectonic plate that continues tremoring right up until the film’s conclusion. With this news, our protagonist slips back into consciousness, greeted once more by the fine face of Dr. G.

Is it any surprise that it doesn’t take long for Marley and Dr G. to break patient-doctor protocol? Not really. Or at all. Nevertheless, it’s an adorable coming together of yin and yang, with Dr. G as the initially serious and reserved guy that Marley slowly cracks. Watching him bud into a playful, more jocular version of himself is fun, while retaining his earnest code is needed in order to ground the flighty Marley. She’s undeniably irresistible but, as he says, she talks so much while saying nothing. The convergence of Dr. G’s influence with her diagnosis forces Marley to finally re-evaluate her escapist way of living. Does ignoring the hard parts of life mean you’re just skimming the surface of what could be a deeper, more meaningful existence? What if it’s warmer in the shallows?

Director Nicole Kassell and Kate Hudson on the set of A Little Bit of Heaven. (MovieStillsDB)

So, on that note, there’s no denying that A Little Bit Of Heaven tackles some serious themes in a pretty superficial way. Life is cruel, for sure, and at other times it presents gifts, but Marley’s world is a real stretch in both directions. Finding love with your doctor? Doubtful. Glossing over the horrific nature of real cancer? Some would say offensive. Confusing God with  a Genie and acquiring three wishes? Hopeful. All in all, don’t go into this wanting a representation of real life, or a true inspiration of how you should live and improve as a person.

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