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Little Bit of Heaven, A
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by Peter Sobczynski

"A Large Slice Of Hell, Served Up Hudson-Style"
1 stars

In the movie reviewing gig, one comes across any number of terrible movies--such a thing pretty much comes with the territory--but every once in a while, one comes along that is so badly misconceived on every possible level that all one can do is stare at it in slack-jawed stupefaction and wonder how in blue hell it could have somehow made it from the printed page to the big screen without someone in a position of power at some point standing up and saying some variation of "Really?" before shutting the whole thing down in a sudden fit of common sense. "A Little Bit of Heaven" is just that sort of movie and then some. At first blush, it looks like just another crappy romantic comedy vehicle for Kate Hudson to waste her talents on but after a while, it morphs into something entirely different but does so in such a dreadful manner that the whole thing begins to take on the form of an especially hideous hallucination. The result is the kind of film that you will never ever forget, no matter how many crayons you may shove up your nose a la Homer Simpson in a desperate attempt to speed up the process.

Hudson plays Marley Corbett, a Bayou babe who seems to have based her entire life on watching "Sex and the City"--the movies included--and taking voluminous notes on what transpired. To put it kindly, Marley is a free-spirited slattern (which even she admits) who drinks like a fish, is sleeping her way through New Orleans and refuses to enter into a serious relationship for fear of one day having her heart broken for reasons that will eventually be revealed at the moment when the screenplay requires a dramatic moment. Why yes,since you asked, she even has a full coterie of sitcom-like stooges--a wacky co-worker (Lucy Punch), a sensible best friend (Rosemarie DeWitt), a gay black neighbor (Romany Malco), an irritating mother (Kathy Bates), a distant father (Treat Williams) and a dog that the director can cut to whenever a cutesy reaction shot is needed--and eventually she find herself genuinely falling in love for the first time with an extremely patient hunk played by Gael Garcia Bernal. The twist, as it were, comes about 20 minutes in when a run-down Marley goes in for a check-up and discovers that she has an aggressive form of colon cancer. Oddly enough, the film continues along its rom-com path (Bernal is her doctor, for example) as Marley tries to face her new situation in the way that she has with everything else in her life--with booze, sex, wry quips and relentless eyelash batting--but after a while, she is finally forced to confront the gravity of her situation and come to terms with the traumas of her past and her rapidly approaching mortality.

There are countless problems with "A Little Bit of Heaven"--far too many to list here--but the biggest is the film's utter inability to find the right tone to handle to material. Dealing with a subject as grim as terminal cancer within the framework of a romantic comedy is certainly ambitious but requires a delicate touch to pull off correctly and it is one that neither director Nicole Kassell (making her first feature film since her 2004 debut, the infinitely funnier "The Woodsman") nor first-time screenwriter Gren Wells possess even in trace amounts. The trouble is not that the film tries to blend comedy with something as serious as a young person unexpectedly finding themselves dealing with the onset of a potentially terminal disease--'50/50" pulled off this trick last fall--but that it does it so horribly. "50/50" dealt with the material in a realistic way that allowed the humor to arise gradually and naturally from the situation in ways that inspired laughter without coming across as crass or tasteless. Here, the whole thing feels like a Very Special Episode of a sitcom that never rings true for a second (you can almost hear the rim-shots in the background after many of the hackneyed bits) and as off-putting as these moments are, it gets even worse in the final third when the film decides to lurchingly shift into pure melodrama mode as Marley gets sicker and sicker. (There are many low points to be had but for me, it doesn't get any worse than the mother-daughter heart-to-heart that kicks off with Marley recalling her younger days as a serial masturbator and a fateful trip to a carpet store.)

Simply put, almost nothing about the film works--the comedy isn't funny, the pathos is just pathetic and the grand romance between Hudson and Bernal turns out to be a big zero. (Don't even get me started on the fantasy scenes with Marley in Heaven talking to God, who appears to her in the form of none other than Whoopi Goldberg.) There is exactly one halfway decent scene in the whole sorry enterprise and that is the one in which a male prostitute is sent to cheer up Marley and the two wind up bonding instead of bonding, if you know what I mean. Sounds straightforward enough, I suppose, but what saves it is the casting of none other than Peter Dinklage--yes, Peter Dinklage--as the gigolo. I don't know what inspired his casting but whatever it was, it was the only smart decision because Dinklage cuts through the stratified layers of crap to find some honest humor and truth and does it so well that when he leaves the scene and the film, most viewers will want to tag along, even if it means heading off to dragon land.

The saddest thing about "A Little Bit of Heaven" is that it marks what pretty much has to be the nadir of the once-promising career of Kate Hudson. Back in 2000--can it really be that long ago?--practically everyone fell in love with her after her Oscar-nominated portrayal of winsome music groupie Penny Lane in "Almost Famous" and expected nothing but great things from her in the future. Since then, however, she has managed to squander virtually all the enormous goodwill that she amassed from "Almost Famous" on some of the worst films to come along in recent years--out of a sense of simple human kindness and dignity, I will refrain from mentioning any specific title on the off-chance that you have somehow managed to purge them from your memories. And yet, as awful as those movies were, I still maintained a certain affection for her and wished that she would finally take a little more care in choosing projects in the future.

With this film, however, that affection is now as much of a distant memory as the time when one did not actively fear spotting her name in the credits. I still hope that she somehow manages to turn her career around and let it live up to all those expectations(or, barring that, perhaps give it up and find some aggressively quirky TV vehicle that will otherwise occupy her time). If there is a bright side to "A Little Bit of Heaven"--and there really isn't--it is the fact that it is so clearly the low point of her filmography that there is nowhere to go but up and that she would have to actively try to find something worse than it and if the film proves nothing else--and it really doesn't--it is that Hudson now seems either unable or incapable of trying anymore, except for our collective patience.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23739&reviewer=389
originally posted: 05/05/12 18:55:14
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  04-May-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 12-Jun-2012



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