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Kate Hudson is a free-spirited woman (does she play any other kind?) dying from “ass cancer” in A Little Bit of Heaven, an awkward mixture of melodrama and whimsical romantic comedy that should make the briefest of appearances in theaters before, like its main character, moving on to other planes. It might serve a valuable purpose if it at least prompts viewers to finally schedule those long delayed colonoscopies.
Advertising exec Marley (Hudson) lives a carefree existence in New Orleans, signaled by her early morning bike rides through the scenic environs of the French Quarter. The sort of irreverent type who turns a pitch meeting with a condom manufacturer into a comic diatribe about female sexuality, she’s commitment-phobic and happily childless despite such positive examples as her pregnant best friend’s (Rosemarie DeWitt)’s domestic bliss.
Her world is rocked when she undergoes a colonoscopy after some troublesome symptoms and is informed that she’s suffering from an aggressive form of colon cancer. During the procedure, she has a fantasy of ascending to heaven where she meets God, who takes the form of Whoopi Goldberg and grants her three wishes.
During her debilitating chemotherapy treatments, Marley finds herself comforted by her burgeoning romance with her hunky physician (Gael Garcia Bernal), who one of her friends (Lucy Punch) points out is the sort of impossibly good-looking doctor who only appears in soap operas. His Mexican-Jewish heritage does, however, provide the opportunity for Marley to joke about going out for “gefilte fish tacos.”
Her friends and family — including her meddlesome mother (Kathy Bates) and estranged, control-freak father (Treat Williams) — do their best to offer moral support. Her gay neighbor (Romany Malco) even arranges for a visit by a dwarf male escort (a very funny Peter Dinklage), whose amusing self-description provides the film’s title.
Will Marley learn to embrace love before it’s too late? That’s the not quite burning central issue of Gren Wells’ tone-deaf screenplay, which features such lines as Marley’s declaration that, “I want to put the ‘fun’ back in funeral.” Director Nicole Kassell (The Woodsman) relies heavily on the photogenic charms of the two leads, as well as the solid performances by the prestigious supporting cast. But their efforts are not enough to make this trivialization of a tragic subject any more palatable.
Opens: Friday, May 4 (Millenium Entertainment)
Production: The Film Department, Davis Entertainment
Cast: Kate Hudson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Lucy Punch, Romany Malco, Rosemarie DeWitt, Peter Dinklage, Kathy Bates, Steven Weber, Treat Williams, Whoopi Goldberg
Director: Nicole Kassell
Screenwriter: Gren Wells
Producers: John Davis, Mark Gill, Robert Katz, Neil Sacker, Adam Schroeder
Executive producers: Skot Bright
Director of photography: Russell Carpenter
Editor: Stephen A. Rotter
Production designer: Stuart Wurtzel
Costume designer: Ann Roth
Music: Heitor Pereira
Rated PG-13, 108 minutes.
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