Just Like Heaven

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But For the Grace of One Pretty Spirit

Sep 20, 2005 (Updated Sep 20, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Betcha by golly wow, I actually cared what was gonna happen!

Cons:Sometimes it was a little silly, particularly in the script department.

The Bottom Line: You know how they have gas stations? Well, one day I'm gonna make a list of the Top 10 Faith Stations, and this movie might just be on there.


When I was driving home, the clarity of the world swept in, uninvited as usual, but always welcomed after the fact. It was like everything just started to make sense. Anything that could possibly happen would be okay, but somehow, this whole world was all mine for the taking. Sometimes the movies just do that to you, get you all thinking like you're on some serious morphine.

I guess you could say my rating of Just Like Heaven is more a reflection of that silly feeling than the movie itself. Sometimes you leave a movie, you go home with Hall & Oates' version of "Someday We'll Know" on repeat and blaring, thinking what amounts to a simple thought that speaks volumes... "I needed that."

And yeah, I did. I probably wouldn't have admitted to needing it beforehand, just like Mark Ruffalo's character, David. In archetypal Hollywood fashion, he is metaphorically "dead" until he meets this girl, Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon, or is it Brittany Murphy?).

In the opening scenes, we see Elizabeth, a nurse, at work. She's been there 23 hours and counting. The cappucino is flying. And excuuuse me for feeling so sympathetic. Anyway, she's trying to get some kind of promotion thingamajig at work. Well, she finally leaves and makes way to a party at a friend's house. On the way, she finds herself looking straight into a pair of oncoming truck lights. Kablooey.

Cut to David, who is looking for a place to live. Nothing has caught his eye yet, or should I say, none of the couches in any of the places have caught his butt. Then he finds this one, this semi-detached house of sorts, and falls in love with it. Within days, a small coalition of empty beer cans has taken residence on the coffee table.

Until all of a sudden, David finds himself being harrassed by this girl who claims that it is her apartment. Only one problem, see, it's not really a girl, it's just a spirit. The spirit of Elizabeth, of course. In a twist akin to Ghost (a comparison that couldn't be any more obvious if it was written across the sky) David is the only one who can see or hear her.

Problem is, Lizzy only just found out she was a spirit, and worse yet, she has no memory of who she is! So it is up to the two of them to find out where she came from, if she's still alive somewhere, or if this is all just one big hallucination! (Yeah right)

For the most part, Just Like Heaven is the perfect movie for lonely sapheads such as myself. It's not brilliant, it's rarely clever, it's not Oscar-winning material by any stretch of the imagination. But I cared about what happened. It's predictable to a point, the chemistry between the two leads is tight as hell, and the ending is like some old-timey, hair blowing in the wind, the hills are alive with the sound of music happy joyfest.

Schmaltz notwithstanding, R&R (Reese and Ruffalo) both injected such humanity into their roles. I wasn't sure I was going to like Ruffalo's character much at the beginning; I mean he really had that whole woe-is-me vibe down pat. But even when he "came around", you could still sense the reality, that his past tragedies would never wholly disappear.

Reese's character, on the other hand, is downright silly. But in a way, you almost have to admire that they didn't adhere too stringently to the Ghost formula. When Patrick Swayze finds out he's dead, the initial shock lasts a good 10-15 minutes, all the way from the gunshot to his first meeting the Subway Ghost, and even then it still feels, you know, shocking. On the other hand, when Reese finds out, it's more like WTF? Oh well, let's do a number from Annie. You don't really expect a character in her situation to take it quite as easily as she does, but when the truth comes out, she does settle into dramatic oh-my-goshness, and the movie takes on a more serious tone. Which makes it easier to care about what's going on.

Just one small word of warning -- watch out for Ivana Milicevic as Katrina, a neighbor of David's who keeps hitting on him. Man, I've seen some nasty things in my life, but the way her butt splattered up and out of those pants, good googly woogly.

Toward the end, when things started getting more intense, Reese had the obligatory crying scene, but I actually worried. Me worrying for someone in the movies, how often does that happen? Just for once, I was actually convinced that the "other" possibility still hung on, but not to the point of being disappointed when it didn't happen.

The script in Just Like Heaven definitely has its mis-steps, walking that thin line between silly and stupid. But strangely (or not so strangely), it just keeps unabashedly skittering on, the way we all do in life when we mistakenly say things like "I don't have the clue!" Yeah, that one's all mine.

Sometimes a movie comes along at the right exact time that you needed it to, and that's what happened with Just Like Heaven and yours truly. Somehow, though, I knew it would, because I myself believe in spirits. I communed with one for four beautiful months, and then four beautiful days. But that's a story better left untold, or we'd be here all day. Like all great stories, it had to end somewhere, and so it has... maybe.

Someday, we'll know

In the meantime, I regret that my faith has to be entrusted to movies like this for that sporadic refill. But like Bruce Hornsby says, "That's the way it is, some things will never change." And it's okay!


Recommend this product? Yes

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