Friday, 18 September 2015

Heaven Can Wait (1978)

To be honest, I only own this DVD because it came in a triple pack with two films (Reds and The Parallax View) that I wanted.  It's thus something of an added bonus to find that I thoroughly enjoyed it.  That perhaps shouldn't be surprising of a film for which Warren Beatty received Oscar nominations for writing, directing, producing and acting (becoming only the second person - after Orson Welles - to be nominated in all four categories for a single film), but I'm not generally a fan of comedies.  Films with humour in them, fine: but out and out comedies tend to contrive and contort their narrative too much for my tastes.

And yet here I am endorsing a film where the premise is that a footballer taken to heaven too early is returned to Earth in the body of a wealthy industrialist.  An industrialist whose wife and personal secretary just happen to be trying to murder him.  So it might seem I am being a little inconsistent about this 'contrivance' thing.

But the thing is that while Heaven Can Wait has a wild and woolly premise, it plays it - for want of a better word - 'straight'.  Rather than forcing the characters to act in whatever way it needs to get a joke to happen, it lets them act naturally in their admittedly unnatural situation, and then finds the comedy in that.  It derives, rather than contrives.  Sure, the characters are broad archetypes with somewhat exaggerated personality traits, but they stay on the right side of believability.

This film is a light and fluffy concoction, but it's light and fluffy in the way of a good souffle.  The ingredients (actors) are all top notch, and they're combined with deftness and skill. Definitely worth a look if you aren't put off by the premise.

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