June 30, 2016

Heaven Can Wait

I'm trying to figure out why the heck the 1978 comedy Heaven Can Wait  moves me so. I just saw it again after having not seen it in about three decades. It stood up well for me.

It's funny how I'm taking new things from it. Little things like the comment of how the previous Rams owner was upset about losing his team to "ruthless" Farnsworth. “What kind of pressure did he apply?” asks his friend. “The worst. I asked for $67 million and he said yes.” Which is actually pretty astute, how money can rule us rather than vice-versa.

Then there's the story line of Joe Pendelton/Farnsworth having two loves: football and Betty Logan, and how these fought for supremacy with Betty winning but "all these things [football] added unto him" nonetheless. It reminds me of the tension between earthly trivialities and love of God.

And it reminds that there's something beyond just the physical body, some “invisible” spark within that allows those with faith to recognize Pendleton in Farnsworth's body.  Like recognizing Christ in a fellow Christian.

The ending is bittersweet - more bitter than sweet when I first viewed it. Back then I felt mostly the “bitter” of the woman and Joe not remembering their history together, of her not having the satisfaction/fulfillment of the truly happy ending of mutual awareness of who she was to Jarrett and who Jarrett was to her.

Seems the coach was left sad and without faith, not accepting that Joe was really inside Tom Jarrett's body. The pivotal moment for him was when he asked Jarrett to look into his eyes (which earlier in the movie was said to be the key to unmasking the true Joe). The coach seemed as deflated after looking as before.

The whole thing is reminiscent of Faith, of stepping into uncertainty and trusting it certain. Of taking small little incidences, coincidences, and understanding they converge into something Big --which happened for Betty when Joe said before he died “don't be afraid to take a chance on someone who may be a quarterback” and by hearing Jarrett later say (like Joe), while they were in the dark together, “there's nothing to be afraid of.” It's telling it happened when her sense of sight was obscured - and thus not seeing the words come from Tom Jarret's body. Reminds me of the Blessed Margaret novena: “O God who wished Blessed Margaret be blind from birth so that the eyes of her soul enlightened by your grace, might more clearly see the value of spiritual realities….”  In the darkened tunnel Betty saw who Jarrett really was.

It reminds me God's subtly, not forcing our belief, and how faith seems so fragile and yet really isn't. Mr Jordan insists “there is a plan” and while the chance meeting between the woman and Jarrett at the end seems tenuous and fragile, able to be broken off by one or the other easily (after all, they ostensibly didn't know each other), you could look at it as fated and as sure as God's will being done.

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