One of the hidden gems of 2005, Just Like Heaven was overshadowed by the usual commercial blockbusters and Academy Award nominees. But this cute little film is the very embodiment of the movie going experience. Fitting easily into the "chick flick" genre, Just Like Heaven isn't a sappy, drawn-out love story filled with clichés and over-the-top dialogue. It's actually funny and likeable enough to appeal to males as well as females. Mark Waters, director of such films as Mean Girls and Freaky Friday, minted himself a successful film during the casting stage when he picked the perfect combination of onscreen talent to illustrate his story. The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon makes this film a lot more interesting than it would otherwise be with a lesser combination of talent.
Just Like Heaven begins by following the life of Elizabeth Masterson (Reese Witherspoon), a workaholic staff doctor in a San Francisco hospital. Driven to achieve, Masterson excels in her career, but only at the expense of her personal life. Taking on extra shifts in an effort to get promoted, she continually misses lunch and dinner appointments with her sister Abby (Dina Spybey). On the night she gets her long-awaited promotion, Elizabeth is en route to her sister's house for a dinner party when her car is smashed head-on by a tractor trailer.
Meanwhile, David Abbott (Mark Ruffalo) moves into a new apartment in the aftermath of his wife's tragic death. Although his best friend Jack (Donal Logue) tells him it's time to move on, David can't seem to get over her passing. Late one night as he guzzles beer on the couch, he's confronted by Elizabeth who is angry to see him camping out in her apartment. Mark insists that the apartment is his, and the two soon discover that Elizabeth is a ghost. As their confrontational relationship grows into friendship, Mark and Elizabeth work together to find out what really happened to her. The result is a series of often hilarious mishaps such as when Mark reluctantly saves a dying man's life using Elizabeth's vast medical knowledge.
Searching for some answers to Elizabeth's strange condition, David visits a bookstore specializing in paranormal occurrences where he meets up with a clerk named Darryl (Jon Heder) who is endowed with unworldly wisdom. Darryl provides a few clues as to the origin and intentions of the spirit haunting Mark and his guidance leads Mark to the discovery of a shocking truth - Elizabeth is still alive. Dependent on life support for the past six months, she hasn't shown any signs of recovery. Her sister Abby, struggling to make the right decision, comes to the conclusion that Elizabeth would want to have the plug pulled. But Elizabeth, who originally felt she would not want to remain on life support, feels very much alive, and she wants to stay that way. Now, Mark and Elizabeth must work together if she has any chance of survival.
Veteran screenplay writers Peter Tolan and Leslie Dixon collaborate well together in creating a well integrated plotline with interesting dialogue. An unorthodox love story, Just Like Heaven showcases Mark Ruffalo's growing appeal as a leading man. Much like Tom Hanks, his everyman look exudes a rare charisma on the big screen. Similar to his standout role in 13 Going On 30 (where he stole the show from Jennifer Garner), the film highlights his likeability among both male and female audiences. But the role would be less of a breakout performance if it weren't for the outstanding chemistry between the actor and his co-star. As she exhibited with her recent Oscar-winning performance, Reese Witherspoon is no slouch herself. Overall, these types of films do little for me, but Just Like Heaven earns my highest recommendation.
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