THEN SHE FOUND ME
April Epner (Hunt) is 39 and her biological clock is sounding an alarm; her charming but immature husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), decides their brand new marriage is a mistake; and her ailing adoptive mother, whom April has been nursing through her illness, dies. Then the brassy, overbearing local talk-show host, Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) shows up, announcing herself as April's biological mother. And she has incredible news: April is the result of a one-night stand Bernice had with Steve McQueen nearly forty years ago. Devastated and bewildered, April finds solace in a growing relationship with Frank (Colin Firth), a suddenly single dad. As this new relationship blossoms, April's general state of confusion gets considerably worse when she finds out that she is pregnant.
Review by Louise Keller:
Words get in the way of true emotions in this comedy drama that marks Helen Hunt's directing debut. We like each of the characters, but the situations in which they find themselves are stage-managed. Based on a novel by Elinor Lipman, it's an ensemble piece that addresses serious emotional issues, yet goes for the comedic, and plays out in somewhat stilted fashion. Hunt's direction, too, is stilted; it is Colin Firth and Bette Midler who come off best in this film that deals with loss, nurturing a relationship and complex mother daughter relationships.
In the first fifteen minutes, we meet all the characters and they're an unhappy lot. Hunt's April is 39, childless, husbandless and has a huge hang-up about the fact that she is adopted. There is no love lost between April and her adopted mother, nor is there any chemistry between Hunt and Matthew Broderick, who plays Ben, the husband whose physicality April allegedly can't resist. Broderick is strangely bland here; their love scenes are totally unconvincing (the scene in which Ben and April have a quickie in the back of her car is blatantly ridiculous) and he walks almost lethargically through his paces. Colin Firth, as Frank, single father of two, does plenty of walking, but that's only to cope with his anger. The role suits him well and I like the adult sleepover between him and April that ends up at the hospital's outpatients. Bubbly Bette Midler never fails to be watchable, and she too, does her fair share of running, to catch up with the daughter she forsook 39 years previously.
Despite a few real moments (like the one in which Frank's toddler swaps her toy frog for a mint from April), it's as though screenwriters Alice Arlen and Victor Levin have put their head together wanting to come up with all the best, smartest, funniest lines imaginable. Trouble is, they sound either like clichés or as though they are best, smart, funny lines written on the page for actors to deliver. It's a pity, because the film is filled with good intentions from all concerned, and could in other circumstances deliver the pathos it deserves.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A series of personal dramas which follow each other in rapid succession have the ability to unhinge most people, and April (Helen Hunt) is one of those. But the way Hunt portrays April, it is no surprise that she is only just married at 39 and that her husband leaves very quickly. April is brittle and rather distant, even though she thinks she is warm and lovable. That's the problem. Matthew Broderick also comes up smelling of rotting roses with a character whose bumbling manages to hide his charm, and whose lack of assertive masculinity is a frustration for April. Yet she can't keep her pants on whenever they meet - even after they've split.
I'd buy even this, if it weren't for the fact that we just can't believe in that relationship. Along comes Colin Firth, who has crossed the Ocean only to be left by his wife with their two small kids. This status leaves him open for April, but the budding relationship is ambushed - not so much by what April does but how she does it. Again, we have a hard time accepting that these two people are caught in a romantic whirl. Firth, accomplished at outwardly cold, buttoned up English males with clever, pithy lines that reveal a burning interior, has one great scene when he explodes with foulmouthed anger. It's the best thing in the film.
And then there is Bette Midler, she who must be heard, a plundering force of nature who turns up and declares that April is her biological daughter. Then she adds a few colourful details, which lead to nasty confrontations. In many of these, Helen Hunt's uncinematic habit of closing her eyes mid-speech are not attended to by the director, since it is she herself.
I don't much care for the story the way it unfolds on screen, nor most of the characters. There are some engaging moments, a few small laughs, and a general sense of endeavour about the complex nature of adopted children and such, but none of it really grabs us, shakes us or touches us deeply.
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THEN SHE FOUND ME (M)
CAST: Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Lynn Cohen, Ben Shenkman
PRODUCER: Helen Hunt, Katie Roumel, Pamela Koffler, Connie Tavel, Christine Vachon
DIRECTOR: Helen Hunt
SCRIPT: Helen Hunt, Victor Levin, Alice Arlen (novel by Elinor Lipman)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Peter Donahue
EDITOR: Pam Wise
MUSIC: David Mansfield
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Stephen Beatrice
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 15, 2008