Schiavo’s Revenge: A Review of “Just Like Heaven”

Susanna Thomas Sep 14, 2005

Just Like Heaven, from Dreamworks Productions, is a beautiful, poignant, romantic comedy – and a lovely piece of right-wing propaganda.  Reese Witherspoon stars as Elizabeth, a devoted but lonely young doctor who signs a living will requesting that her life not be artificially prolonged. Following a car accident, she falls into a coma for three months. Her disembodied spirit must then convince the handsome man now renting her apartment to prevent her sister from signing the release form to terminate life support.

In the end, her hero steals her body from the hospital and wakes her up with a kiss, Sleeping-Beauty style. The guy gets the girl, and Elizabeth finds out that having a boyfriend is, in the words of her mentor, “what it’s all about.” Her diminished brain function from the effects of the coma brings her, in the words of her new boyfriend,”down to [his] level,” and everybody lives happily ever after.

Just Like Heaven seems like it was written by someone who was unhappy with the outcome of the Terry Schiavo case. It is peppered with lines such as, “Of course I’ll help you [steal the body]. I don’t want to let them kill Abby’s little sister!” Or, Abby herself, who tearfully asks the forgiveness of her newly awakened little sister, saying, “I can’t believe we almost let you go.” The attending physician states that Elizabeth was opposed to heroic measures, adding, “Most doctors are,” to which Elizabeth’s ghost responds, “Yes, but that was before taking into account the present circumstances.

I completely support it now!”

Abby must make the choice between “look[ing] out for” her sister, and “respect[ing] her wishes”; in the movie, “looking out for” the patient in the coma clearly wins.  The point is that legislation is needed to silence those right-to-die advocates once and for all.

Once again, the far right has successfully used popular culture to deliver its message. Honestly, if you want to make a political point, you can either picket a dying woman’s hospital room or create a beautiful movie that will make audiences cry.  Which would you rather see?

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