Review: Just Like Heaven (2005 movie)

Reese Witherspoon is an overworked emergency room doctor in San Francisco with no social life. Her sister invites her to dinner to meet a supposed nice guy, but driving there, after over 24 hours on duty, she gets into a horrific head-on collision.

Mark Ruffalo is a recent widower looking for a place to stay who winds up in Witherspoon’s former apartment. Suddenly Witherspoon is there, nagging him about not using a coaster. At first he thinks she's nuts, then realizes that she's a ghost.

Only Witherspoon doesn't believe in ghosts. Do you remember anything interesting happening to you recently, he asks her, like maybe dying?

No, she doesn't, in fact. In fact, it turns out that aside from remembering that she lived there, she's a spook with amnesia. But that doesn't mean she's leaving him alone.

So Ruffalo attempts to exorcise her, but that doesn't work. OK, plan B: He decides to help her find out who she is, or was.

Alas, there are big patches of idiocy in the plotting at this point, and as usual with romantic comedies a fair amount is painfully predictable. Then again, by no means all of it is, and at one point there’s a very nice plot twist that I thought was absolutely brilliant when I independently thought of it several years ago (not that I ever did anything with it).

Incidentally, an interesting bit of trivia: The apartment in the film, the one neither Ruffalo nor Witherspoon is willing to give up because of its spectacular location, is a real place, and in fact one of the film's screenwriters had actually lived there.

While watching the film I kept thinking the title was Almost Heaven, and I think that would have been a better choice. It’s based on a book called Si c’était vrai... (If This Were True...), the first novel by French author Marc Levy, but even in the French novel it was set in San Francisco and featured American characters.

Levy, by the way, started a French-American computer graphics firm, lost control of it, co-founded a major interior design and construction company, and then after selling the film rights to Si c’était vrai... to Dreamworks even before it had been published, he changed careers again and became a full-time writer. Today he’s the most widely-read French author in the world.

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