Friday, November 18, 2005

just like heaven

I've been updating this blog less and less these past few months. Same excuse, been a bit busy. Work and, more interestingly, band stuff. Finally a proper album is on the way. I also have another blog, dedicated to solely review Malaysian films. Check it out at Now off to a non-Malaysian film review.

There's a tendency in present day film criticism to dismiss outright light mainstream films and overpraise independent films, or at the very least overpraise 'serious' mainstream Oscar nominated films. Gone are the days when a light, well made romantic or screwball comedy can receive rave reviews and multiple Oscar nominations, like the days when Frank Capra, Leo McCarey, Ernst Lubitsch and Preston Sturges ruled not only the wallets of audiences, but also the hearts and minds of film critics and awards nights. Of course, classic film buffs will just say that they just don't make movies like that anymore. And in a way, that statement is true. Film audiences have moved on. And so have filmmakers. But I think it won't be wrong to say that they may not make them like that anymore, but the spirit of those wonderful films live on, albeit in different shapes and sizes.

In Just Like Heaven, we get to see 2 lonely souls, David (played by Mark Ruffalo) and Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon), venture into that journey called falling in love, although in this case (readily apparent from the trailer - so you cannot accuse me of giving anything away) one of them literally is a soul. And so they will fall in love, experience some hiccups, and in the end be together again. You know it. I know it. It would take someone really naive (or overly optimistic) to expect anything else from a mainstream romantic comedy starring one of the reigning queens of the box office. But since when is that a sin?

Watching Just Like Heaven, I just can't help but wonder what made so many film critics around the world (even ones that I have great respect for) universally condemn this wonderful, sweet and funny little movie. Yes, it does not dwell on 'important' issues, but has it ever signalled any intention of doing that? I don't think so. It is exactly what it wants to be, a sweet, funny, and sometimes sad take on falling in love. And for succeeding to do so with much delicacy and tact, the film and its filmmakers deserve more credit than I think they will get. The writers have come up with a script so nimble that you just accept everything they throw in your way. Falling in love with a spirit who used to live in your aparment? No problem. Zany exorcism scenes by religious 'experts'? No problem. And all this in a simple, light romantic comedy, which also never lets you forget the fact that death is just around the corner. The acting of the two leads, I just can't praise enough. Mark Ruffalo is simply a star, playing his character with such simple honesty, and being the perfect foil for Reese Witherspoon's uptight character. And the fact that they cannot touch each other physically (one being a spirit) only adds to their wonderful chemistry and to the joy we feel when they finally touch.

And all of this was supervised with the kind of great, confident control of tone that you've come to expect from Mark Waters, the film's director, whose previous works (Freaky Friday and Mean Girls, amongst others) should have alerted you to his talents for crafting comedies both funny and human, without neglecting the commercial aspect of things.

So give this smart little movie a chance. Will it be a classic? Only time can tell. Will you enjoy it? I can't think of any reason why you won't.
(8 out of 10)


thegrouch said...

on the spot again, as usual. i loved the movie...just didn't know how to explain WHY i liked it when other people were so roundly condemning it.
p.s-i want to shag mark ruffalo. repeatedly.

shahrul azwad said...

Hey, since we talked about romantic movie, I saw Racing With The Moon last weekend on tv. I post my thoughts on my blog in case you're interested. Maybe you've seen the movie.If not, you should.

Gadis di Tepi Tingkap said...

ouh aidil, cant believe u love this one, its way predictable man. Pada pendapat saya, it's just 'ok-lah' ..dont think it could be classic, but people will need to catch it if its shown in HBO =)

p/s - still think Eternal Sunshine is the best romantic movie

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