Screen life

Angels don't thrill me. If happy endings are reliant on feathered divinity, I may as well end it all now
What's all this with angels in the movies? We've had `em in Michael, The Preacher's Wife and now in Danny `Trainspotting' Boyle's upcoming romantic comedy A life Less Ordinary.

Angels aren't new to Hollywood, of course, Stairway To Heaven, It's a Wonderful Life and Wings of Desire had them too. But why and why now? Because Tinseltown has done its homework exploiting the zeitgeist.

A recent survey showed that many Americans believe angels actually exist. We're not talking concepts here. We're talking about things with wings.

Is this angelic takeover part of America's dumbing down? Are angels the rosy fingers of a coming spiritual dawn? Moviegoers don't give two hoots as long as there's a happy ending.

These days, we're so disillusioned with reason and rationality that a happy ending doesn't seem feasible without divine intervention. Enter angels - the clean face of the occult, a Christian idea of the cavalry.

Traditionally, Hollywood's magical beings (let's include TV's Bewitched and Jeannie as in I Dream Of....) aren't heavenly versions of Charles Bronson.

They're contradictory creatures who have barely enough ooomph to help themselves and yet, ha ha, were sent to help us mortals. For that ruse to work, we must believe that God knows best for all his creatures.

Take that one step further, and you've got Hollywood's solution to the old philosophical chestnut: if God is all-good and all-powerful, why does evil exist? Why? Because. Now shut up and eat your popcorn.

Angels don't thrill me. If happy endings are reliant on feathered divinity, I may as well end it all now. If I must have an angel, however, give me one like O'Reilly in A Life Less Ordinary.

As a "celestial cop" who can only return to heaven after uniting the film's hero and heroine in love, Holly Hunter says she plays O'Reilly like a cross between Nancy Sinatra and a Charlie's Angel: all long hair, short skirts, high boots and southern drawl. Like modern women everywhere, she's weary of her job, too confident to be "feminine", too old to be `sexy'. She's a woman literally dying to go home.

In one of the film's more telling scenes O'Reilly gets run over by a pick-up truck. When she pops up again, tights laddered, bloody, but still vitally alive, we laugh. We have to. She is just like us. All she wants is to end up in heaven. Like us, she has to go through Hell to get there.

No wonder Hollywood wants to reinforce the belief that angels are all around us, helping us out, cheering us up. Without them, life would seem a bit too, shall we say, unfair?

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