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Just Like Heaven – great date movie, romantic,

you're an angel

you're an angel

Just Like Heaven – Director Mark Waters

(BBC Prize Review)

A great date movie. For romantics. If you go for light romantic comedies like Serendipity or even Sleepless in Seattle, you’ll love this one. A neat script (Peter Tolan – Analyze That; and Leslie Dixon – Mrs Doubtfire and Thomas Crown Affair) keeps the credulous storyline the right side of whimsy and sets up some fun exchanges and stylish sight gags.

Reese Witherspoon can do this stuff now standing on her head, which is not to underestimate her considerable skill at the undervalued art of light comedy. Her highly mobile face and expressive ingenuous eyes endear us to workaholic Dr Elizabeth Masterson. Just awarded her longed-for residency at the end of a 26 hour shift, on her way to a blind date at her sister’s flat, Elizabeth loses an argument with a truck.

Cut to flat-hunting David (Mark Ruffalo) seemingly guided by meaningful chance to Elizabeth’s now unoccupied flat. Recovering from personal tragedy by working his way assiduously through Smegfuls of Miller Light, David and the feisty ‘spirit’ of Lizzie as he re-christens her, engage in a nice line in verbal swordplay. Eventually Lizzie accepts that her inability to pick up a phone and neat trick of moving from one room to the other without opening doors, is a tad unusual. Perhaps it’s her after all. You could write the rest of the storyline, David helps Lizzie to, as we might put it, find herself, and they fall for each other on the way. For somewhat serious practical reasons this relationship at first remains entirely spiritual. A few gentle twists on the way easily maintains the interest of willing romantics – like me – and the wrap-up is like a tidy little bow on a well-chosen present.

Pretty much a two-hander, Witherspoon wins hands down. Mark Ruffalo does his vulnerable hunk bit well enough but there is no real on screen chemistry as he had with Meg Ryan in Jane Campion’s under-rated Final Cut which upset Michael Parkinson’s romantic sensibilities so much. Ruffalo’s range is narrow as the overrated We Don’t Live Here Anymore shows. But here he convinces well enough as a landscape gardener whose personal loss has switched him overnight from flower lover to couch potato. Witherspoon’s talent and the sharp little script need a more subtle player, like say John Cusack, to squeeze more fun out of a storyline that stretches your suspension of disbelief at times. But it springs back.

I liked it a lot. But I quite enjoy to mush my brain with a bit of romantic escapism now and then. If Sin City or King Kong lights your partner’s fire, stay home, rent the DVD of Batman Begins and polish the black leather together, this one’s not for you. Pure escapism. Undemanding fun.

(January 2006)

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