Almost Heaven is not a bad movie, but it's also not a very good movie, it is somewhere in that middle land of slightly above average films. It is a linear story about an overweight, cocky, self-possessed alcoholic television director that is asked to get back in the game.
The film opens with a phone ringing, a guy in his kitchen making coffee, and a very beautiful naked woman lying on her stomach shouting to answer the phone. Eventually she gets dressed, comes downstairs, he adds Scotch to his coffee, and she leaves. He finally answers the phone and his agent wants him to direct a new television series. Jump cut to Scotland and overweight drunk guy (Mark Brady played by Donal Logue) meets the cast and support people for a brand new fly fishing program he's directing. Oh the pain, his ex-wife is the host of the show.
The film is about redemption, and recovery from drinking. It's told in a light humorous tone, no dark depressing alcoholics in this movie. It follows the classic story line; will he meet the woman of his dreams, stop drinking, and make a fabulous hugely successful television show? Sadly, Almost Heaven doesn't bring much new to this old story. It wasn't hard to guess the ending.
There are three really bright spots in this film, and they rescue this film from the dumper, Tom Conti, Kirsty Mitchell, and Scotland. Tom Conti does a fabulous job as the drunk bar owner that befriends Mark Brady the director. I'm not a big Tom Conti fan, but in this role, I really liked him. Kirsty Mitchell plays a female ghinne (apparently Scottish for fishing guide) that is misunderstood and falls for our hero Mark Brady. The scenery in Scotland is stunning. If this were a travel movie for Scotland, it would have had better success.
Donal Logue is the low point in the film. Donal has a long history in film and television; he is a fairly major actor that should know better. In this film, he phoned in his performance, mostly reading his lines. I cannot imagine why any woman is attracted to him, he is overweight, sports a hideous 5 day beard, drinks like a fish, has some pretty nasty tattoos, and is rude. As a side note, be very careful with the bonus features, he rolls around naked on the floor with a very beautiful blonde, it is not pretty. The supporting cast is good, nobody necessarily stands out.
The film is roughly 40 minutes too long at an hour and forty minutes. The film would play better as a made for television movie. The film was reasonably well shot, nothing jumped out as really bad camera work. The sound seemed functional, I could hear the dialog but that was about all. The bar scenes and people trying to be drunk were very poorly done, they looked like a badly done BBC television show. Editing was standard work a day melodrama. The music was very pretty, but added nothing to the film.
The DVD is chock full of bonus features. The same old nattering on and on making of featurette is included. The deleted scenes are only worth watching for that first scene. The director made a brilliant choice in not using the scene presented in the bonus features. It is simply way too explicit, and seeing Donal Logue's belly on top of that beauty was just too much.
The film is not rated. There are several bedroom scenes where intercourse can be imagined, but no body parts are shown. There is an advertisement for lingerie at one point (Mark's ex-wife tries to seduce him in a very lovely bit of full coverage lingerie), in a larger budget film, they would have mentioned Victoria's Secret there. There is no frontal nudity. There's some strong language here and there. There are many drinking scenes and the effect of being drunk. No violence, save a frozen dead fish thrown in the river. Except for the one deleted scene, this is very likely a PG-13 film.
I didn't hate this film, but then again, I didn't love it. It's a very old story that, in hind sight, is pretty boring. The scenery is beautiful and Tom Conti is worth watching even if you are not one of his fans.