Many romantic comedies have a Sleeping Beauty theme, but few as literally as this by-the-book but enjoyable trifle.
Elizabeth (Reese Witherspoon) is a dedicated doctor who has no life outside the hospital. One night her car is hit by a truck. The next thing she knows, some man is in her apartment. She does not realize that three months have gone by, her apartment has been sublet, and that no one can see her but her new tenant, a sad and lonely man named David (Mark Ruffalo).
David tries everything to get rid of what appears to be a ghost, from urging her to “walk into the light” to bringing in a priest and consulting an expert in the occult (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder).
As Elizabeth and David try to find out who she is and what is going on, they both realize that neither one has been fully alive. Each must find a way to rescue the other to find a way for them to be together.
Witherspoon and Ruffalo are so good that they make old formulas seem fresh. Both are actors who fully inhabit their characters, both handle comedy, romance, and drama with equal skill (a quiet scene about a sad loss is beautifully done), and both bring a little movie star magic to every scene. Heder’s character is like a slightly stoned version of Napoleon Dynamite, but it is worth it just to hear the way he says “cola.” Not quite heaven-sent — there are no surprises here and every bit of it is overly careful, including the too on-the-nose songs on the soundtrack — but it moves along sweetly and has a nice combination of froth and tenderness.
Parents should know that the movie has some crude language, someone giving “the finger,” brief non-sexual (comic) nudity, and some sexual references. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of a man who turns down a beautiful and willing woman who offers him sex because it would interfere with the relationship he hopes to have with someone else. Characters drink, including excessive drinking to numb pain and a description of drinking a lot of Margaritas as being fun. A character punches another in the nose and there are tense scenes. Some viewers may be disturbed by the question of “pulling the plug.” While it is certainly a good idea to have a balanced life, for a moment this movie seems to suggest that failing and getting drunk are better than working hard and making a contribution. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of characters of different races who treat each other with respect and affection.
Families who see this movie should talk about their own end of life wishes. They should also talk about how we can achieve a balance between working for the future and taking time to appreciate the present. What dream for the future can you start making come true today?
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy All of Me, Beatlejuice, Ghost, Topper (with a very young Cary Grant), and Here Comes Mr. Jordan and the remake Heaven Can Wait.