In A Little Bit of Heaven, Kate Hudson plays a strong, single, independent woman. So, of course she contracts a fatal disease. The idea of Hudson, an unfailingly (and oft-piercingly) featherweight screen presence, staring into the abyss and grappling for Oscar clip moments is far-fetched, and it's no compliment to say this dramedy (and improbable sometimes-rom-com) plays to her limited abilities.
Upon discovering she has colon cancer, Hudson's Marley Corbett—a whimsical ad shark whose pad features a swing in her kitchen—doesn't fall to pieces. She remains button-cute and chipper, letting the minor touches of the makeup crew do the heavy lifting. She even uses her serial hospital visits to foment an adorably unethical romance with awkward-but-endearing doctor Gael García Bernal (mostly looking lost in a rare paycheck role). Marley would border on delusional-sociopathic if the film around her wasn't as phony and unrealistic, and not just with medical details. (Heaven makes ER look like a Frederick Wiseman documentary.)
It's unclear whether the script, by Gren Wells, originates from an autobiography, but it plays like her understanding of character comes from a lifetime of watching movies, and not even the good ones. The would explain the one-note characters foisted upon an over-qualified cast, including Rosemarie DeWitt, whose inability to give an uninteresting performance is severely tested by the role of Marley's killjoy sister—who decides to greet her sibling's demise with the silent treatment. For added sabotage, there's also Marley's periodic "chats" with a God who's taken the form of Whoopi Goldberg (which sounds more punishing than that may sound), Peter Dinklage offering characteristic credibility to his horrifically demeaning role as a dwarf gigolo and Kathy Bates as a cartoonishly overbearing mother, a character type that also appeared in the male version for this movie, 50/50.
That cancer dramedy had its problems—notably an obnoxious bro-ness, however tempered by Joseph Gordon-Levitt at his sweetest—but it felt real where it needed to, namely when its hero had to come to grips with the visceral possibility of non-existence. Heaven, by contrast, consistently rings false, and it doesn't even give its star much to do beyond staring faux-pensively into the distance while perched on a park bench. Let's not even get into how it not even remotely sells or delves into its protagonist's decision to quit chemo and enjoy the little that remains of her life. Of course, that move does mean Hudson never had to endure the inconvenience of chopping her curly locks, so good for her.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely