Since I needed to amp up the romance in the book I’m working on, I decided to watch a romantic movie last weekend to try to get more in the mood. I pulled one off my shelf that kind of fit into the same general category of contemporary fantasy, Just Like Heaven. I’d seen it at the theater when it came out, and I’d read the book it was based on. I have the DVD from when the local Blockbuster went out of business and sold off its stock, but I hadn’t actually watched it since I bought it.
This is an interesting premise for a romantic comedy. A widower has subleased a nice San Francisco apartment and wants to do nothing more than sit on the sofa, drink beer, watch his wedding video, and be left alone when a strange woman shows up in the apartment, acting like it’s her apartment and he’s an intruder — except when she goes to call the police, she can’t pick up the phone. She seems to be a ghost, though she insists she’s still alive, but nothing he tries that’s supposed to get rid of a ghost works, and she delights in tormenting him. But their relationship begins to change when he decides to help her figure out who she is, what happened to her, and what’s going on with her. Once they learn all that, they realize they’re running out of time to save her.
The fact that they can’t physically touch for most of the movie makes this almost like one of the old romantic comedies from the days of the production code. The whole relationship has to be developed emotionally rather than relying on shortcuts like sex scenes, and they have to build the sexual tension from proximity and awareness. Reese Witherspoon has way too much fun as the sassy, obnoxious ghost, and Mark Ruffalo does the baffled Everyman thing well. The only thing that would have kept this movie from being made in the 1940s is the technology, which may be why I like it.
It’s also a rare example of a movie being better than the book it’s based on. The book is extremely creepy in ways I can’t describe without spoiling the movie. Let’s just say that an event that’s just one quick sequence in the movie is an extended part of the book, and by extending it more than a few minutes, it gets icky.
It looks like this one is only streaming on Vudu as part of a service, but it’s a rental stream at most of the other outlets. I’m not sure I’d pay to rent it, but it is a nice, sweet romantic comedy of the sort they don’t make anymore. It kind of shows where I stand on romance at the moment that I was mostly sighing over the fabulous San Francisco apartment. That aspect of the movie has to have been pure fantasy, even back in 2005. You’d have to be a multimillionaire to afford a place like that.