Made in Heaven [1987]

In Made in Heaven, Timothy Hutton plays a young guy in 1946 who's just been dumped by his girl and decides to go to California. On his way, he rescues a family from a car that's driven into a lake--and drowns in the process. Of course, he finds himself in Heaven, and there he meets Kelly McGillis, a soul who's never been born on Earth. The two fall in love. Just as they're about to get married--just for the fun of it, since by the rules of Heaven they're already married--McGillis gets sent to Earth to be born. Hutton pleads with Emmett, a figure who may or may not be God, who finally agrees to give Hutton 30 years on Earth to find her and continue their love. This 1987 Alan Rudolph film teeters on the edge of absolute cheesiness and steps over that edge at moments, but mostly it miraculously maintains a delicate, sweet, and affecting tone. McGillis is good, but Hutton is superb, demonstrating an honest charisma that makes him engaging even when he's being a jerk. The depiction of Heaven avoids the patronizing, overdone joyfulness that too many movies fall into. Though the idea sounds like pure saccharine, Made in Heaven consistently sidesteps the obvious and comes up with something genuine. Rudolph is a prolific but erratic director (his stronger movies include Choose Me, Trouble in Mind, The Moderns, and Afterglow), but this is one of the ones worth seeing. Made in Heaven features Debra Winger and an uncredited Ellen Barkin, as well as cameos by rock stars Neil Young, Ric Ocasek, and Tom Petty. --Bret Fetzer

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