Maybe the 2011 film A Little Bit of Heaven starring Kate Hudson and Gael García Bernal evaded you. Or maybe you assumed you already saw it back in 2005 when a similarly plotted film, Just Like Heaven starring Reese Witherspoon, came out. Whatever the case, the bad rap A Little Bit of Heaven received from critics is highly unwarranted and quite possibly due to Whoopi Goldberg playing herself as God.
Like Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon in Just Like Heaven), Marley Corbett (Hudson) is a hard-working woman whose entire life is consumed by her profession. She has no time for romance and when she does, it’s purely for sexual fulfillment. Unlike Elizabeth, however, Marley’s death sentence is slow and prolonged, as opposed to quick and coma-resulting. After experiencing excessive weight loss and tiredness, Marley’s friend and co-worker at the ad agency she works at, Sarah Walker (Lucy Punch, sporting an American accent), insists that she go to the doctor to be examined.
Marley’s doctor, the paradoxically named Julian Goldstein (Bernal) in spite of his Mexican heritage, serves as the David Abbot (Mark Ruffalo in Just Like Heaven) figure in the story. Immediately noticing that something’s not quite right with Marley, he orders a series of tests to be conducted. Already enamored of her unique spirit and sense of humor, the laughs continue when Marley gets a colonoscopy, goes unconscious and imagines God as Whoopi Goldberg. While “on the other side,” Marley is granted three wishes: to fly, to win a million dollars ($500,000 after tax) and, something else she’s not willing to acknowledge, to be loved.
The results of Marley’s test prove fatal, revealing that she has colon cancer. The manner in which Julian deals with telling Marley her options afterward prompt her to yell at him for his callousness, which, of course, sparks his interest in her even more. Marley’s good-naturedness prevails as she informs Sarah and her other close friends, Doug (Johann Urb) and Renee (Rosemarie DeWitt), and her estranged mother and father, Beverly (Kathy Bates) and Jack (Treat Williams), of her illness.
With little time on her side, Marley persists in remaining reluctant about getting attached to Julian, even after he tells her he loves her. But what kind of Just Like Heaven character prototype would she be if she didn’t learn to trust her heart and give in to her instincts? In any case, A Little Bit of Heaven deserves a watch if you aren’t one of those people who deems all rom-coms to be saccharine wastes of time. Plus, the death element in the story makes it automatically less schmaltzy, regardless of what critics say.