Three or four days ago director Rod Lurie (The Outpost) stated on Facebook that his love for Warren Beatty, Buck Henry and Elaine May‘s Heaven Can Wait (’78) hasn’t faded. Lurie saw it at age 16, and said that no other film since has made him feel so good.
He’s referring, of course, to the last 20 or 25 minutes. Specifically from the moment that Jack Warden‘s Max Corkle bolts out of the Leo Farnsworth mansion for the Super Bowl game at the USC coliseum, and until Beatty (playing Rams’ quarterback Joe Pendleton as well as billionaire Leo Farnsworth, so to speak) and Julie Christie (i.e., Betty Logan) walk off to share a cup of coffee.
Before those final 20 or 25 Heaven Can Wait is diverting as far as it goes. The applicable terms are “chuckly, pretty good, deft, likable, lively remake,” etc. It’s an amusing, vaguely meta thing by way of a reincarnation plot. And not especially deep or mystical at that. The humor is dry and deadpan. Beatty, Christie, Jack Warden plus Charles Grodin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Vincent Gardenia and everyone else — the schtick they’re working with is turned way down.
But there is a scheme in mind, and you just have to wait for the payoff.
The first 75 minutes of Heaven Can Wait are, of course, a set-up for the final 25. And during that final 25 HCW sells the audience on two great notions — (1) people who’ve fallen for a certain someone in actuality can somehow sense or recognize them in a subsequent incarnation, and (2) there’s a celestial system in place, and rule #1 is that nobody really dies, or certainly not in the sense that most of us recognize it (i.e., eternal lights-out without dreams).
From “In Like Flynn,” posted on 11.16.11.: “The legendary eye chemistry between Beatty and Christie in the final scene of Heaven Can Wait is all about spirit and pangs and possibility. Ditto the eye current between Jeremy Irons and Juliette Binoche in this clip from Louis Malle‘s Damage couldn’t be much more carnal. They’ve met only seconds earlier but it’s a done deal.”
This kind of instant-green-light, good-to-go chemistry doesn’t happen all that often in dramas, or at least not as convincingly as it does here. But maybe my memory is faulty. I’m asking for other scenes that have this kind of current. One look, one touch…and there’s no doubt about what’s going to happen. It’s simply a matter of time and circumstance and somebody making the first call.
I’ve been there many times. It’s always the woman’s decision and you always know within minutes if not seconds. Losers like to think they can alpha-vibe or chitty-chat or sweet-talk their way into a woman’s boudoir. Maybe this happens every so often, but 90% of the time if a woman hasn’t given you the come-hither within three minutes or less you’re probably wasting your time.
That doesn’t mean you can’t screw things up after the initial connection. There are 50 ways you can motivate a woman out of a romantic mood, and if you can think of 35 of them in advance you’re a genius.