Heaven Can Wait, 1978.
Directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry.
Starring Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, James Mason, Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia, and Jack Warden.
Heaven Can Wait, Warren Beatty’s classic 1978 romantic comedy, makes its Blu-ray debut with a remastered print of the film. No bonus features were commissioned for this release, unfortunately, but a code for a digital copy is included too.
Some movies are timeless and feel like they could have been made at any time. Heaven Can Wait, however, is not one of them. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie. It’s a solid romantic comedy, but it’s also a product of the 1970s Hollywood era in which it was made. And I’m saying that as a white male heterosexual whose family’s religious background was Lutheran: This is a film made for people like me.
Co-directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry from a script by Beatty and Elaine May, Heaven Can Wait stars Beatty in the role of Joe Pendleton, a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who is accidentally whisked away to Heaven before his time was up. Since his body was cremated, he gets a second chance at life in the body of a heartless millionaire named Leo Farnsworth. Wearing his heart on his sleeve, Joe brings a different attitude to Leo, which captures the affection of Betty Logan (Julie Christie), an activist who wants to convince him not to build a refinery near a small town in England.
Charles Grodin leads the supporting cast as Farnsworth’s assistant, Tony Abbott, who’s having an affair with Mrs. Farnsworth (Dyan Cannon). The pair thought they had killed Leo before Joe inhabited his body, so they become convinced that he’s suspicious of them and plot to off him once and for all. Grodin brings his famous deadpan style to the role of Abbott; it’s a type of humor I’ve always enjoyed (I’m a fan of Bob Newhart too).
Joe is smitten with Betty, but he also wants to become a quarterback for the Rams again, so he buys the team and begins trying to get Farnsworth’s body into shape to play for them. He manages to convince the Rams’ trainer who he really is, and the pair begin a workout regimen to get him ready for a team that’s likely headed to the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, Joe must deal with his feelings for Betty and tells Mrs. Farnsworth that he wants a divorce.
The dueling plotlines come together in a way that’s predictable but satisfying, setting up a bittersweet conclusion. In the end, Heaven Can Wait isn’t a rom-com of the “screwball comedy” variety, but it’s a nice film with a plot that unfolds at a steady pace and plenty of solid acting performances. The sentiments and music are both a bit corny and very much of their era – the former includes a marriage proposal that doesn’t make a lot of sense and the latter features a lilting score that’s more reminiscent of a drama than a comedy – but overall, it’s a nice film to revisit.
Heaven Can Wait piled up nine Academy Award nominations but only scored one win (Best Art Direction), while Beatty scooped up five awards of a lesser variety, including a Golden Globe. The actor supervised the film’s restoration for this Blu-ray release, which marks the movie’s debut on the high-def format. While it’s not a film anyone would likely use to show off their home theater system, especially with its muted color palette, the picture quality is blemish-free and features a light amount of grain.
Paramount also included a code for a digital copy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★