My Take by Jim Carl - February 29, 2012
HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1978)
I have no memory of having seen Heaven Can Wait in a theatre, although I do remember the TV ads, vaguely. I also remember the billboards in Dallas as we drove to Six Flags. Huge, they were. Until then, I hadn't realized that billboards also advertised movies. And wasn't that neat? The only billboard in Sweetwater, Texas I recall advertised Allen’s Fried Chicken House. I was ten years old in 1978. Star Wars, Superman: The Movie, and Foul Play occupied much of my imagination. It must have been 1980 or 1981 when Heaven Can Wait finally premiered on HBO that I watched this popular Warren Beatty film. It was the first time I realized some movies do indeed have a perfect closing line before the credits. ("I would love to have a cup of coffee with you.") If you’ve never seen the film, I won’t spoil the ending for you. But it involves Warren Beatty and Julie Christie walking across a football field as the stadium lights flicker out after the Super Bowl.
In fact, the entire last 20 minutes of Heaven Can Wait are awesome because all of the major plot points are resolved in a heartfelt and bittersweet manner. At that young age, I wasn't even aware that movies could have such powerful endings. It's so hard for most movies to stick the landing, much less have a great closing line and scene. It's easier to simply fade to black. As an example, I offer that I saw a lot of movies at the theatre in 2011. I can’t remember how 99% of them ended. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean grossed $250 million in the United States alone. How did that movie end? If you held a gun to my head, I could not tell you. Rise of the Planet of the Apes? There was a bridge, I think. Mission: Impossible? The theme music alerted me it was time to leave. There may have been credits.
After Heaven Can Wait, I realized that closing shots matter. The final image (and line) is sometimes the most important. It says something that I consider Heaven Can Wait has a better ending than the destruction of the Death Star and its subsequent celebration. Does that mean I like Heaven Can Wait more than Star Wars? No, but I will give Heaven the better written final act. Was I becoming more mature? Probably not. More likely, this is where I first became a sucker for sentimentality. For years, Heaven Can Wait has been the high-water mark against which I compare other movie's endings. It's rarely been matched.
Do you have a favorite movie ending? A closing line that feels pitch-perfect? An ending that you subconsciously compare all other movies against? Tell me about it.