Movie Reviewers Complain About Pro-Life Premise in "Just Like Heaven"

September 22nd, 2005 2:18 PM

SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who intend to see the movie, I guess it's only fair to mention the heart of this post is based on a spoiler for the film. You've been warned.

[Hat tip to Rotten Tomatoes]

If your local movie reviewer seems snippier than usual in his/her take on the latest romantic comedy vehicle for Reese Witherspoon, Just Like Heaven, well, it might have a bit to do with the writer's politics.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer's William Arnold wasn't content to confine his scorn for the theatrical merits (or lack thereof) for Witherspoon's latest work. In his negative review, Arnold scolds the movie's writers for what he sees as the politics behind the premise of the film:

It's also worth mentioning that, inadvertently or not, the film ends up taking a hard stand on -- and trivializing -- the Terry Schiavo issue. It may be a piece of fluff, but its timing is terrible in this regard, and families facing such a situation could understandably find it to be a seriously irresponsible statement.

The reservations aren't only held by those who panned the film. John Anderson writing in the Christian Science Monitor in an otherwise favorable review lamented a socio-political consequence of the film he forsees coming as it does months after the Terri Schiavo legal battle:

Timing, they say, is everything, and it's probably unfortunate for everyone involved that no one will watch "Just Like Heaven" without thinking of Terry Schiavo. All those living wills people made out after the Schiavo case? "Just Like Heaven" will be just as effective in getting them shredded. The thrust of the movie is that a woman who has found love only after falling into a coma, and who expressed a wish not to be kept alive in such a state, is floating around pleading with her unhearing loved ones not to pull the plug.

So as funny and even tender as it all is, "Just Like Heaven" is also horrifying. With or without current events, the movie has a weighty, bordering-on-morbid, subtext. It's a terrific movie. It just happens to be haunted.

Oddly enough, A.O. Scott, the reviewer for the New York Times has a more positive, apolitical take:

Without giving too much away, I will note that the movie performs the astonishing feat of taking the contentious issues surrounding the life and death of Terri Schiavo and turns them into the stuff of farce. Mr. Waters must have the lightest touch in Hollywood, an enviable and perhaps unnerving ability to wring belly laughs out of grief, ethical difficulty and medical horror.

Perhaps reviewers the nation over could take cues from Scott: love them or hate them, but when you write movies reviews, refrain from making your review a socio-political soapbox.