Heaven Can Wait is a fantasy romantic comedy directed by Ernst Lubitsch and starring Gene Tierney and Don Ameche. It is such a humorous and pleasant film with a lot to offer.
It is about an old man who, once he dies, has to prove that he belongs to Hell by telling his life story. It is a very interesting but above all endlessly charming flick. It is an interesting experiment that worked in my opinion. And I am talking about the genres on display. You have a romantic comedy which is in the center with over three fourths of the movie. And that romantic and comedic story spans decades which is also interesting and a structure of a biopic. I usually dislike these films that spans decades as they often suffer from weaker character development and a lack of focus. But this was refreshingly an entirely different story. I for once enjoyed such a structure as all the characters are immensely likable and the focus is never lost with the subplots working wonderfully into a coherent whole. All that romantic comedy is tied together with its fantasy elements which are of course the beginning and the ending. And those are also superb and so funny and effervescent. And they make the movie all the more enjoyable.
But what I liked most about it is its humor and of course inherent charm and suave direction which is expected from the director. The humor is such an interesting one – old-fashioned, but sometimes with a more playful and sexy tone to it as well and that mix of modern and traditional works wonders here. The funniest parts are in the film’s first parts and to me the most hilarious and most charming part is with Martha’s parents who are so funny, but also sympathetic and so realistically portrayed. And that breakfast scene they share may seem like a filler at first, but is anything but as it adds the most humorous scene to the movie.
The character development here is absolutely astounding. Each and every character is so incredibly well developed but also so grounded in reality and always likable which is the best mix possible. Henry is one of the strongest protagonists from the forties in my honest opinion. Yes, he is that good! His endless infatuation with women is a quality that would usually put me off, but here I liked it as he was a romantic as well and so suave, while also being a good and kind-hearted human being. He is the soul and the heart of this movie and one of the biggest reasons why the whole film works so well.
Martha is also such a wonderful character, so likable and charming. And her parents, as I said before, are so realistic and hilarious. And Hugo, who is the grandfather of Henry, is such a lovable old man and the relationship between the two is so well done. All of the relationships here are superb and most of the characters get their moments to shine.
The acting is amazing. Don Ameche gave a good performance, but could have been better nonetheless. Gene Tierney is superb really and Charles Coburn is once again absolutely spectacular in his role. Most of the actors did such a terrific job and they brought a lot of charm and chemistry to the table.
The movie has a couple of flaws. Don Ameche could have been better, I wished for more fantasy elements and not all parts are as memorable. And it can get a bit obvious and a bit unrealistic with the relationship between the two lovers, but they are still a great couple to follow with some heartbreaking but also moving scenes. It has its flaws, but it is still an incredibly strong film.
Heaven Can Wait is also technically polished with a great directorial style from Ernst Lubitsch and this is one of my favorite movies from him. It also looks good with some nice scenery and interiors. They brought the different time periods in a great way and the movie is incredibly well paced for such a film. It spans through decades, but is never boring which really took me by surprise. It was endlessly entertaining to me from start to finish which is such a feat for this structure. The dialogue is also sophisticated and sexy and I like how it ended on a high-note. It is also a very emotional, but always comedic film with many memorable moments. It surely is one of the very best films of a very weak year.
Heaven Can Wait is an immensely entertaining, charming and comedic film with a great structure, fine mix of genres, absolutely superb and likable characters and some incredibly moving scenes. It has its flaws, but it is mostly an incredible film which is always engaging, at times very funny and filled with such inherent charm, great directing and acting and a plethora of lovable characters.