Love does not get any more sugar coated than Just Like Heaven, a sickly sweet tale of in the vein of Ghost (Jerry Zucker, 1990). David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) moves into his new flat with the hope he can wallow in his own depressive life. Sadly for him, former tenant Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon) thinks she still lives there even though she is a ghost. Cue fighting, confusion and a search to discover why Elizabeth is haunting her old pad.
It is a fun premise into which Ruffalo and Witherspoon adopt their character traits well. Elizabeth is a workaholic doctor who has had no time for men in her life and Witherspoon captures this perfectly as a strong-minded and independent force that drives the film. Abbott is a man looking for an easy, hassle free life away from anyone else, and Ruffalo makes him an effective slacker, lost in his own aimless mind. What is less effective is the chemistry between the two. They almost appear to be in a different room for much of the interplay when they are alone together on-screen. I did enjoy the initial confusion and fighting – David is shocked to discover Elizabeth in his flat and thinks he is seeing things when she disappears after walking into another room. However, as romance blossoms there is little more than dialogue to suggest they have any feelings for each other. Sadly, the script brings out all the tired rom-com cliches of past reflection, aspirations and self-discovery in order to push it forward.
…and pasted into this without much thought.
The supporting cast is given little time on-screen to make much of an impact. Jon Hedder has a minor role as medium Darryl, but he does little more than play his Napoleon Dynamite character again. Although not necessarily a bad thing, the resemblance feels like he has been cut from that film and pasted into this without much thought.
Just Like Heaven does look good, and is certainly perfect night with the girls or date fodder. It certainly should not be taken too seriously: the final third layers so many rousing strings, defining moments of inner illumination and heartbreak together that it becomes overloaded with forced emotional energy. ‘Cry here’, ‘Feel fulfilled here’ the film seems to cry out. If you like to be taken by the hand and told how to react to a film, Just Like Heaven tries to do just that while handing you the chocolate, ice cream and tissues at appropriate places. It does not provide anything particularly new for the rom-com genre, but it is at least well shot by director Waters. A slight and unrewarding offering.