The most successful romantic comedies are the ones that include multi-dimensional, diverse characters who genuinely change and overcome all odds to be together. The new romantic comedy A Little Bit of Heaven, the latest entry in the genre, tries to include these elements as well as incorporate humor, faith and love into the serious subject of death. While the movie makes a commendable effort to prove that true love really does conquer all in times of dramatic need, its uninspired anti-stereotypes fail to help its unoriginal and cliched story.
A Little Bit of Heaven chronicles successful New Orleans ad agency executive Marley Crobett (Kate Hudson) as she receives a promotion. Marley insists to her friends, family and anyone who will listen that she doesn’t need a committed relationship to be happy, since she has her career. However, her normally humorous outlook drastically changes after she has a life-changing visit with her doctor, Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal), who tells her she has cancer. As the two bond over her illness, Marley realizes she can open herself up to true love and commitment without getting hurt.
Through Marley, second-time feature film director Nicole Kassell aims to prove that women can be just as carefree and independent as men and that they don’t need a serious relationship to be happy and prosperous. While trying to break all stereotypes typical of romantic comedies, including women’s desires to be in a committed relationship and men only finding success in their careers, A Little Bit of Heaven falls back on other genre cliches to tell its story.
Marley experiences every life lesson cancer patients live through, including appreciating your friends and family, who you may have taken advantage of for most of your life; opening up to the possibility that love can help improve your life; and never taking life for granted, no matter what circumstances you have to endure.
Marley is also the quintessential example of someone who doesn’t believe in the importance of love, due to her parents, Beverly (Kathy Bates) and Jack (Treat Williams), not being able to make their relationship last. Beverly is the over-bearing mother who feels the need to control everyone else’s life and fails to understand why it’s important to give everyone room to grow and mature on their own.
Jack, meanwhile, is the complete opposite and is emotionally distant from everyone in his life. With Marley, Kassell aimed to create a character striving to be different from both her parents, but ultimately had characteristics of both-being authoritative with her friends and emotionally distant with the men in her life.
While Kassel also tried to incorporate an element of faith into A Little Bit of Heaven by having Marley communicate with God (Whoopi Goldberg) during her surgery, the sub-plot fails to impress. Marley only seems concerned with how God can help her during her treatment and continuously makes jokes in her perception of heaven. While God does encourage Marley to seek happiness with Julian, she’s still hesitant to believe that anything good can still happen to her, which defeats her whole journey of discovering her happiness and self-worth.
With A Little Bit of Heaven, Kassel genuinely tries to break the stereotypes seen in most romantic comedies. Ultimately though, she just gives into other staples of the genre. As hard as she tries, Kassel just can’t deliver an intriguing, interesting story or an in-depth character for Hudson. With Marley’s constant insistence that she doesn’t need a committed relationship to be happy and the overly hokey sentiments that everyone should live life to the fullest and unconditionally love their friends and family, the film is another forgettable entry in the genre that isn’t really worth seeing.
While director Nicole Kassall tried to create an independent female lead who doesn't give into stereotypes with Marley, the overall movie ultimately lacked originality, a memorable story and characters with any true purpose.