My wife read the book Midway to Heaven. I started to read it with her after she was finished. We liked the book. She saw that there was a movie based on it called Heaven Is Waiting. We rented it from Redbox.
First of all I'm confused. Why the change of name? Even IMDB.com is confused. I went to look up the movie by the title of Heaven is Waiting and it did not find the movie based on Midway to Heaven. When I typed in the name Midway to Heaven it showed me a box cover of the movie we watched that was titled Heaven is Waiting, but the box cover they showed on IMDB's site was Midway to Heaven.
All of the IMDB confusion aside. The movie is still about the town Midway that is supposed to be beautiful and peaceful. At the beginning of the movie they even introduce the town and say that the name of the town is rumored to be Midway because it is midway to Heaven. The name change makes no sense, but this is just the tip of the ice burg.
The movie stripped out all the LDS references, even though it is still based in Utah. The book is filled with LDS references and that is some of what makes the book unique and interesting. Of course being LDS myself, I may enjoy and understand those references more than someone who is not LDS.
It not only removed the LDS references, but replaced them with protestant references. It appears that they wanted to broaden the audience, but apparently they didn't want to broaden it too far. They seem to be assuming that most people won't find the LDS scenes entertaining or won't understand them, but making the character protestant makes it to where everyone understands them better?
The one that stands out is the scene where he is speaking to a protestant preacher at the gas station and the protestant preacher is quizzing him about why he impersonated him to a college to ask about the guy his daughter is dating. In the book he was called into his bishop's office and asked about his calling the boyfriend's bishop in another town to ask about him. Not only is the scene more intense because someone called him in to talk about it, but this he could potentially lose his church membership over doing something like that on top of the fact that the person he was impersonating could press charges. The preacher getting on him about it did have the option for legal matters, but there was no extra potential penalty for him. Yes, I see there is awkwardness is anyone finding that out and maybe more so if it is your preacher, but it still seems a much lighter scene that with a bishop.
Additionally, after covering the issue of the impersonation the bishop talks with him about how he is doing. How he is handling his wife's death and how he is handling his daughter growing up. The preacher pretty much just laid out that he knew what he had done and Ned quickly disengaged the conversation.
Another LDS thing they removed that really had nothing to do with the church, other than location was the scene at temple square where he stalks a couple that looks like his daughter and then she catches him stalking.
I say they removed the scene only because they changed it so badly that it was not the same scene. They changed from a beautiful scene at Christmas time with the lights on temple Square and the peacefulness of it to a bar.
They changed from him suspenseful stalking this young couple and having his daughter walk up behind him to barging into the bar like a raving lunatic shouting for his daughter and offending everyone around him. This ties into my point earlier of the movie making Ned look crazy, rather than just in mourning.
The movie was too short. Part of the issue with the movie being too short falls back to them cutting the movie apart to conceivably make it more palatable for non LDS people. But even with chopping out the LDS stuff this movie could have been a lot better by just taking some more time to develop the plot. Even though the book was a somewhat short novel, it still takes time.
Several of the scenes seemed really rushed. To the point that if one hadn't read the book it would be hard to understand. I think the scene in the kitchen was like that, but that scene had many of the problems I have previously discusses. It made Ned look mean and the boyfriend look easily agitated and not infinitely patient like the boyfriend in the book.
They cut out several other things that were substantive points of the book.
They took out the golfing scenes with the boyfriend and the father. They took out the running scenes with the boyfriend and the father. As previously stated, the character of boyfriend was not near as "perfect" as in the book. The father was much less passive aggressive in the movie and more directly confrontational. The boyfriend was less forgiving and less giving the father the benefit of the doubt and more confrontational. They kept putting the dad in situations where he would get caught talking to the dead wife. I didn't get the feeling in the book that he was having a psychological break, but that he was just having a lot of trouble letting go.
I didn't get the impression from the book that Carol, the girl that was pursuing him, presented herself as if she knew she was pretty and could manipulate Ned with it. I may be remembering wrong, but I seem to recall that the primary weapon the women used on him was casseroles and the prospect that he would have to make contact with them again to return their dishes.
There were also less women presented as chasing. They mentioned briefly that they had been, but part of taking a book and making it a movie is to visualize things that were just in words in the book.
The movie had potential just by being based on a good book, but it also had potential by what I could see of what was presented. It appeared that there were talented people involved in the movie, but the length of the movie and the slashing parts of the book left it flat.