Almost Heaven Review

Why do good actors insist on starring in bad movies? I realize roles are probably pretty scarce for relative unknowns, but you wouldn't pounce upon a pile of shit just because you were sort of hungry, would you? Almost Heaven is a prime example of such desperate shit-eating. You might remember Donal Logue from the kind-of-amusing Grounded for Life and, um, the romantic comedy Just Like Heaven (I only watched it for Mark Ruffalo, I swear!) I actually think Logue is a good comedic actor, even if he does at times give off a douchy Dane Cook-esque vibe, but if he keeps deciding to take on roles in films as mediocre as Almost Heaven, he won't have much of a career.

The film concerns washed up, recently-divorced TV director Mark Brady (Donal Logue), who gets somewhat of a professional break when he lands a job shooting a Scottish wildlife program about fish. The only problem is his bitchy ex-wife Taya (Joely Collins) is the host of the show! And, he's falling for the on-set fishing expert, Nicky (Kirsty Mitchell)! Cue the hijinx!

For some strange reason, all of the women involved with the show fawn all over Mark like he's Marlon Brando. Or, you know, whoever the kids are finding attractive these days. I mean, the guy's not ugly or anything, and he does have that class clown charm about him, but I have to wonder what all these girls are supposed to be seeing in a broken down, unsuccessful lush who's pushing forty. Perhaps Shel Piercy is projecting? Living vicariously through his leading man? I couldn't tell you, 'cos I hadn't heard of the guy until this movie, and I doubt you have either.

Just to give you a taste of Piercy's cinematic talent, consider the first scene, which shows Mark opening up a cabinet full of empty liquor bottles. 'Cos he's an alcoholic, get it? Just to make sure we didn't miss anything, the camera lingers on the shot of the bottles as Mark picks them up and examines them, showing us that they are, indeed, empty. Then, he finds one with a few fingers of scotch still left in it and the camera stays focused on his mug as he pours himself an Irish coffee even though it's only morning, because DO YOU GET IT, HE'S AN ALCOHOLIC. Subtlety at its finest, folks. It also sets the tone for the rest of the film, where you can rest assured that Mark will remind you, oh, about fifty different times that he's an all-out, grade A drunk who likes to DRINK ALCOHOL and go on BINGES and BENDERS and get WASTED. I'm not being hyperbolic, either; Piercy devotes the first half of the film to making sure we understand that this is indeed Mark's most prominent characteristic, simply by telling us over and over that this is indeed the case. Except we never really see him deal with any of the realities that such purportedly excessive drinking would undoubtedly bring up. He's never sloppy or rude or destructive, and when he does actually make an ass out of himself it isn't brought on by his drinking. This is a perfect instance of telling rather than showing, and quite frankly, it's a very unrewarding viewing experience when all the information is just plopped in your lap, rather than arranged on screen in a way that is captivating and original, giving you the option of figuring things out for yourself.

Aesthetically, Almost Heaven is scarcely just a cut above a made for TV movie. The single love scene of the film is so poorly done that it's infuriating. All slow motion shots and fade-ins, replete with red sheets and candles in the background. I'd rather they skipped the whole sequence and just cut to the couple lying in bed together the next day.

The acting is generally pretty on-point all around, which the cast should definitely be commended for; I imagine it's rather difficult to muster up enthusiasm for a hackneyed script such as this. But not even the greatest thespian could salvage this saccharine, formulaic train-wreck.  Ultimately, this is the work of an amateur whose understanding of filmic technique never extends past anything than tired cliche.

DVD Bonus Features

The DVD features a commentary with the director, which I'd only recommend if you love the film so much that you wouldn't mind sitting through it again, which I doubt will be the case. There are also some needless deleted scenes and a rather tepid making-of featurette.

"Almost Heaven" is on sale August 11, 2009 and is rated NR. Drama. Directed by Shel Piercy. Written by Shel Piercy, Richard Beattie. Starring Donal Logue, Joely Collins, Kirsty Mitchell, Lynda Boyd.

Inna Mkrtycheva

I’ve been trying to write something pithy and clever about myself, but as I am neither of these things I’ll just list some things I really like lately: the Twilight Zone, pizza, giant squids, “bloop” (look it up), bears, and Bill Hicks. Also, I have a growing fascination with music video goddess Jan Terri. It’s bad news.


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