A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
- Parents say
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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
- Studio: DreamWorks
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, including crude references, and language
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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