Then She Found
Remember the late 90s when
it seemed like Helen Hunt was in every movie getting released?
Of course that isn't the case, but between 1995 and 2001, beyond her work of
the hit sitcom Mad About You (which ended in 1999) she appeared in
nine high-profile films - including As Good As It Gets, Twister, Cast
Away, What Women Want and Pay It Forward. Since then, she
has essentially disappeared from the Hollywood scene, starring in one
unnoticed film in 2004 (A Good Woman) and doing a modest role in the
star-studded ensemble drama Bobby (2006).
Well, I suppose it is no
real secret that roles are a lot harder to find in Hollywood for actresses
who are over 40. And, in fairness, buzz around Hollywood has always
been that Hunt was somewhat difficult to work with. Therefore, with
the marquee film offers drying up, Hunt has taken her career into her own
hands: starring in, writing, directing and producing this independent labor
I just wish I loved it as
much as she did.
Or even particularly liked
I think we can safely say
this is not the project that will be rejuvenating Hunt's stardom.
Sadly much of this blame
can be traced back to Hunt herself. Honestly, the source material is
not really playing to Hunt's talents. I have not read the novel that
this movie is based on, but her screenplay keeps skirting over huge plot
points and relying on unlikely coincidences to the point that the audiences
don't buy much that happens. It's a kind of weak story and the writing
is not strong enough to make us care about it. (The confusion of the
screenwriting process is probably pointed out best in the fact that Hunt has
two of the four screenwriter credits for the movie.)
Her lead character of April
is an annoying sad-sack: miserable, numb, whining, needy, unreasonable and
regularly making what is exactly the the wrong decision on most major life
choices. Therefore, screenwriter Hunt sabotaged actress Hunt with an almost
impossible-to-like role. On the other hand, you do have to give Hunt a
certain amount of respect for allowing herself to be filmed in such an
unflattering light (beyond being a rather unlikeable character, Hunt allows
herself to look every second of her age). This is most certainly not
the Hollywood glamour project of an aging diva.
It doesn't exactly help
that her co-stars also are in the past-their-sell-by date sector of their
careers. Midler tries her best - and frankly gives this film most of
the little life it has - but Broderick's later career role shift from hip,
rebellious 80s kid to nebbishy middle-aged loser is long past annoying.
He's been playing essentially the same role since Election in 1999,
and it pretty much peaked that first time. Besides, you know
when Colin Firth has the most viable current career of the four leads,
things are in a bit of trouble.
Hunt plays April, a forty-ish
teacher who wants nothing more than to have a child but can't seem to
conceive. Her marriage to a good friend (Broderick) turns out to be an
impulsive disaster. Her adopted mother dies and she is feeling totally
At that moment her birth
mother suddenly reappears in her life, wanting to become friends.
April is understandably somewhat cautious about the reunion, but eventually
she seems to be rather unreasonable and selfish in her relationship with the
mother she never knew. At the same time, she meets a British divorcé
(Firth) who is - amazingly - even more neurotic than her ex-husband.
Some of the casting seems a
little odd. Midler seems much too young to be playing Hunt's mother.
The sense is always that Midler can't be more than five to ten years older
than her daughter - even
though the actress really is old enough to be her mom, if you buy the film's conceit that
it was a teen pregnancy. (Hunt is 45, Midler is 62). It also seems odd
to have the actress whose best known role was of a shiksa goddess on
the series Mad About You playing a devout Jew (though again,
explained away in the film by the fact that she is adopted) while Midler,
one of the most Jewish actresses anywhere, is playing a WASP. Hell,
they even have Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Salman Rushdie as Hunt's
OB-GYN. A nice touch, I guess, but odd and distracting at the same
Then again, odd and
distracting sadly describes way too much of this movie.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: September 18, 2008.