Heaven Can Wait is a totally charming piece of work, a film that successfully mixes tones, filled with self-reflection, playful screwball comedy, sly social commentary, with a romance that is both emotionally affecting and rewarding on a narrative level, and a bit of light suspense added in to keep you slightly on edge. Co-directed with grace and class by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry and co-written with compassion and sharp wit by Elaine May and Beatty who based their script on Harry Segall’s play of the same name, Beatty took the lead role and created one of his most memorable roles, and when you combine that with his chemistry with screen goddess Julie Christie, it’s easy to fall under the sweet spell that this film casts over the viewer.
The supporting cast is too good to be true: Jack Warden, Dyan Cannon, Charles Grodin, James Mason, Buck Henry, Vincent Gardenia, and so many other bit players all came to play but knew full well that it was the Beatty-Christie show. Dave Grusin’s romantic yet melancholy music was in perfect tandem with William A. Fraker’s sunny-hazy images (both of their filmographies are totally ridiculous), while the disciplined and tight editing by Don Zimmerman and Robert C. Jones left not an ounce of fat on the running time. Nominated for nine Oscars and winning one for Best Art Direction, Heaven Can Wait grossed $82 million at the box office in 1978, there are many reasons why this one is a beloved classic, not the least of them being that it’s just so effortlessly entertaining and it never stops enjoying itself.
Review by Nick Clement