Making the Grades
Life has a plan, always a plan. But for Joe Pendleton (Warren Beatty), the L.A. Rams rising star quarterback, that plan includes a few glitches.
Snatched from sure death moments before impact with a speeding car, Joe arrives at a paradisiacal way-station with a novice heavenly escort--forty-seven years too early. By the time the paperwork is sorted out, Joe's body has been cremated and it's up to the angelic Mr. Jordan (James Mason) to find him a replacement. Disgruntled with the options shown him, Joe is at last smitten by the pleas of a beautiful, young schoolteacher, Betty Logan (Julie Christie) who has come to appeal her town's case against businessman Leo Farnsworth and his intentions to build a factory in their area. Convinced by Mr. Jordan that as Farnsworth he can help Betty, Joe steps into the dead man's drugged cadaver before it's discovered.
Certain of their plot to kill her husband; Mrs. Farnsworth's (Dian Cannon) respite in a stiff drink is shattered when a very lively Farnsworth bounds into the office. The hysterical woman is hustled out of the way by her accomplice lover, Farnsworth's personal assistant, so they can devise another attack on the unlucky millionaire. Joe, while pursuing the English educator and coaching a company besieged with lawsuits, chases his NFL dream by shaping up his loaner body for a tryout with the Rams. (He secured this opportunity by having enough cash to buy the team.) But with only hours remaining until he suits up for the big game, Joe's borrowed physique is recalled leaving him bodiless once again.
Directing, as well as starring in Heaven Can Wait, Beatty plays an upbeat, health conscious athlete who dashes through the stuffy halls of the Farnsworth's estate, disdains the injustices of big business and just wants to play football. While the depiction of an adulterous wife and mild profanities penalize this movie, families with older children may find this Hail Mary story of chasing your destiny despite heavenly fumbles, worthy of some real first down yardage.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Heaven Can Wait.
After inviting the press and others into the company’s board meeting, Joe gives the executives a pep talk on being “popular players” and not making mistakes when they are on a winning streak. Do you think that big businesses are concerned about the impact that they have on others? Does Joe’s advice make good business sense?
Often when a close-up shot of Betty is shown, her eyes are highlighted with a soft light. How can the use of light emphasize different moods in movies?