Hippo Manchester
September 22, 2005

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Just Like Heaven (PG-13)
by Amy Diaz

Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo nuzzle like little kittens throughout the basket of cherries and sunshine that is Just Like Heaven, a romantic comedy where the true object of everyone’s affections may indeed be the coolest apartment in the world.

Witherspoon and Ruffalo have a cousin-like chemistry with each other and are generally appealing as humans. But true passion is written all over their faces, is radiated from their very souls, when they walk around the fantastic one-bedroom-with-view that is the movie’s principal setting. With view and fireplace. And wood floors. And open kitchen. And private access to a roof-space with limitless potential. And plenty of sunlight. And giant windows including a bay window that … excuse me, I think I need a glass of water and, perhaps, a cigarette.

In terms of giving your matinée idol the proper amount of glamor, Just Like Heaven gives us an apartment to swoon over with the right amount of simple class and grace mixed with apartment-next-door (well, next door in a better neighborhood) reality. If they handed out 8-by-10 glossies of the apartment, I’d probably frame one and put it by my bedside so I could gaze longingly at it while drifting off to sleep. I don’t know if the movie intended us to so completely fall in love with the apartment but as strategies for making your movie more entertaining go, it’s not a bad one. Good real estate is at least as universal as broad shoulders or big boobs.

And all the cheesecake shots of this architectural beauty are absolutely relevant to the movie. It is, after all, the link between high-strung and successful but lonely doctor Elizabeth (Witherspoon) and the mopey, full-lipped David (Ruffalo). Elizabeth has the stellar living quarters and a great promotion at her hospital but, alas, she has no man to keep her warm at night. The punishment for this sin of singlehood is to be hit, head on, by a truck. When next we see her, she appears suddenly in her apartment where she finds the beer-soaked David planted on her couch. David, awash in grief, is shocked to see a blond suddenly appear and attempt to order him out of her apartment. After several cutesy run-ins where David tries to convince Elizabeth that it’s his apartment and Elizabeth tries to convince David that he’s a crazy person, Elizabeth starts to question a few things. For example, why is she always in the same clothes? Where does she go when she’s not bickering with her new tenant? Why can’t she remember any of the details of her life? And why can’t she touch anything?

With the alternative being that David is, in fact, loony, they decide that Elizabeth is dead and set out to learn what happened to her and why she’s still hanging around. Naturally, through this search they begin to turn their initial Felix-Oscar clashes into romance and their investigation of Elizabeth’s life leads them to hope they may one day find a way to be more than just apartment buddies.

Movies like this work much better if you are a person inclined to gush over mushy-centered-brownie-like romances and believe in things like Optimism and True Love without smirkiness or the need to ironically capitalize them. I, on the other hand, believe that for an apartment with bay windows and access to a roof that looks out on the San Francisco skyline, perhaps I would return from the dead. (And, if, as Witherspoon does, I could walk in on Mark Ruffalo in the shower, so much the better.) Whatever your particular fantasy, it helps to buy into some unrealistic notions in order to buy into this movie.

Assuming you can get past the cuteness, the movie is technically well done with appealing leads and good supporting roles from Donal Logue, Dina Waters and Jon Heder. The dialogue won’t overdose you on sugar and the plot, though silly, is sturdily enough constructed for what it is.

So, romantic comedy fans, rejoice! You have yourselves a perfectly fine movie that won’t pain you to see. For the rest of us, there’s always that dream of an affordable 1br/1bth w/frpl & view.