A Little Bit of Heaven
By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Bizarre combo of terminal cancer weepy and sexy romcom.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
As you would expect from a movie about someone dying of cancer, A Little Bit of Heaven's overriding message is to seize the day and open yourself up to the possibility of love and commitment.
Positive Role Models
Marley is tenacious and free-spirited, but she only opens herself up to the possibility of love when she's dying. Her initial fear of commitment transforms into an ability to recognize and find love, even if it's short-lived. She goes through all the stages of grief associated with dying and is able to say her final goodbyes before finally passing away. Marley's best friends, Peter and Sarah, stand by her at every turn, even though Renee finds it too difficult (as a pregnant mother) to deal with the certainty of Marley's death. Marley's mother is always there for her, even when Marley criticizes her and is cruel.
Violence & Scariness
No violence, but it might be disturbing for some viewers to watch a movie about a dying character.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Lots of kissing and a couple of love scenes. At the beginning of the movie, Marley makes it clear that she believes in having casual, no-strings-attached sex. She texts a guy over for a booty call; sexual noises and thumping are heard. She's shown in bed wearing a bra, and he's shirtless. Marley and Julian have sex after one date –- there's lots of kissing, a darkly lit scene of them in bed, and then in the morning he gets out of bed and shows his naked behind. In a humorous scene, Marley and a male escort make loud noises so that a neighbor will think they're having sex. Julian tells a couple of dirty jokes.
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Several uses of "s--t," "ass," "bitch," and "t-ts," plus milder language like "hell" and "damn." Marley makes a couple of cultural jokes to Dr. Goldstein about him being Mexican and Jewish, like "What do you want to eat, gefilte fish tacos"?
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Products & Purchases
Marley mentions the powerful connotations of Trojan condoms' logo/name in an advertising meeting with a fictional rival condom brand. In one sequence, Marley takes her best friends and mom on a shopping spree, where they discuss splurging on Louis Vuitton and Prada purses, Jimmy Choo shoes, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Grown-ups drink socially (wine, beer, cocktails) at restaurants, bars, clubs, and dinner parties.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Little Bit of Heaven is a "dying with cancer" drama, complete with spiritual overtones and a command to live life to its fullest, because you never know when it's going to end. Although the subject matter is mature, there's a lot of humor in the film -- as well as a fair bit of language ("s--t," "ass," "bitch") and sexuality (plenty of kissing and a few love scenes, including one that shows a man's naked rear). There's a strong theme of repairing damaged relationships, saying final goodbyes, and showing people how much you love and appreciate them, all of which is rooted in the main character's (Kate Hudson) decision to die without regrets. God is represented humorously as Whoopi Goldberg (everyone gets to see God as they imagine); overall the movie puts a positive spin on faith and believing in a higher power.
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Where to Watch
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What's the Story?
Marley (Kate Hudson) is a free-spirited New Orleans advertising executive who has everything going for her: great friends, no-strings-attached dates, fantastic job. Then, after experiencing some stomach issues, she's unexpectedly diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. But all is not grim, because her physician is the sweet and handsome Dr. Julian Goldstein (Gael Garcia Bernal), and a brief visit with God (Whoopi Goldberg) provides her with three final wishes. As her diagnosis worsens, Marley finds herself more and more attracted to Julian and alternately angry and accepting of her condition.
Is It Any Good?
There's no denying that Hudson is adorable, and the New Orleans setting is magical, but those are the only positives. This syrupy end-of-life drama is a strangely off-putting combination of overly-sentimental "seize the day" messages and a traditional romantic comedy. Terminal cancer patient falls for her hunky doctor -- talk about a bizarre meet-cute. While there are snippets of the story that work (Peter Dinklage is hilarious as a male escort in a brief sequence), the majority of A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN is just confusing and cringe inducing.
It's not that the conflation of love and death is anything new. Plenty of movies combine the theme of finding or securing love and facing the end of life, but there's nothing particularly romantic about Marley and Julian's relationship. The life lessons she imparts are extremely clichéd -- carpe diem, tell people you love them, don't close yourself off to love, even if it's short-lived -- and at the very end, even the prolonged death vigil isn't the tear-jerker you'd expect from the genre. But if you love Hudson enough, you might just enjoy the sight of her smiling and dancing her charming self to heaven.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why so many dramas feature dying characters. How do movies portray people who are dying?
How are sexual relationships depicted in A Little Bit of Heaven? How does Marley's attitude toward love change as her prognosis worsens?
Are movies about dying characters appropriate for younger audiences? Were you surprised by the fact that Marley doesn't get better? What are some other movies that handle death in a touching manner?
- In theaters: May 4, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: June 12, 2012
- Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Kate Hudson, Lucy Punch
- Director: Nicole Kassell
- Inclusion Information: Latinx actors
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, including crude references, and language
- Last updated: September 26, 2022
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