Heartbroken and totally humiliated when her husband leaves her, confessing to adultery on
a national tv talk show, Birdee Calvert (Sandra Bullock) packs up her young daughter
Bernice (Mae Whitman) and moves back in with her eccentric mother Ramona (Gena Rowlands)
in her hometown of Smithville, Texas. The one-time high school beauty queen’s life
becomes complicated as she tries to deal with the ensuing emotional turmoil. Eventually
Birdee discovers a few things she had almost given up on: love, acceptance and a life full
of promise and best of all … hope.
"I rarely succumb to labeling a film with marketing handles, but this is
unavoidably a woman’s film – and perhaps even limited to recently separated
women looking for on-screen catharsis…. since it fails to explore the full context of
the central character. Sandra Bullock, as exec producer, may have chosen this for the same
reason that Robert Duvall went such a long way to make his one-man showcase, The Apostle.
It’s a vehicle for the actress, but sadly it’s not much more. The end of the
journey she takes is hardly soaring, and the trip itself is none too gripping. Harry
Connick plays the most interesting character, a backwoods guy whose unpretentious exterior
hides something more complex and interesting, but he is never allowed to open it up for
us. Gena Rowlands’ Ramona, Birdee’s mum, is also more interesting than Birdee
herself, and Mae Whitman acts up a storm as the young daughter. Not a bad film, exactly,
but a bit pedestrian. "
Andrew L. Urban
"Hope Floats is a 'white bread' movie - all the standard ingredients are there, it's made to a time-honoured formula, and the result is a little over-baked and rather bland. It's difficult to hate; but it just doesn't excite. The initial premise, with its sly commentary on talk show culture, is intriguing; but the film soon slips into familiar melodramatic territory. The plot is a little like a mixture of 'Basics of Family Conflict' and 'Introduction to Romantic Drama'. There's never any doubt that true love will win out, and there'll be casualties along the way. However, Hope Floats doesn't come together cohesively, because the time devoted to the family issues means there's precious little left to fully develop the love story between Birdee and Justin. This, combined with some implausible script elements and a few downright manipulative scenes, results in the film being somewhat disjointed. After her earlier efforts in Speed, The Net and Speed 2, Sandra Bullock gets an opportunity to display more substantial emotional range, and her performance is generally good. The same can be said for Harry Connick Jr., Gena Rowlands and the rest of the cast. But like the rest of the film, no one shines. Hope Floats is inoffensive romantic fare, a pleasant enough diversion, but lacking true emotional depth. Just like white bread, it's OK at the time; but we really should have more fibre."
"Sandra Bullock doesn't get much respect as an actress; the qualities that make her a star tend to steer her away from complex, knotty roles. Mostly she's used to represent an innocent sensuality - that fabulous big smile suggests an almost comic openness and warmth, less aimed at other characters than impelled by a peaceful inner amusement. But in Hope Floats, which Bullock also co-produced, her persona seems deliberately more fraught. Both the actor and her character Birdie (an ex-beauty-queen) are grappling with and trying to work past a quasi-bimbo image, while still partly dependant on it. Placed as usual against a lower-class background, Bullock has a couple of strong scenes as a woman thrown back on her own resources, forced to consider what she might have to offer apart from girlish charm. However, the suggestions here on how to reinvent yourself (a return to family bonds, the love of a simple guy) don't exactly break new ground. Generally this is a bland piece of soap opera, its frail plot padded out with 'quirky' humor that registers as mildly grotesque: even the wonderful Gena Rowlands can't quite redeem the part of Birdie's taxidermy-obsessed mother. In its treatment of everyday emotional pain - betrayal, loss, death - the film is more insipid than sentimental, smoothing over the hard edges of grief and uncertainty with slow dissolves, softly lit rural scenery and extremely bland pop songs. Wait for Bullock's next project (unless you're a fan of Garth Brooks)."
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HOPE FLOATS (M15+)
CAST: Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr, Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Michael Pare,
Cameron Finley, Kathy Najimy, Bill Cobbs, Connie Ray, Rosanna Arquette
PRODUCER: Lynda Obst
DIRECTOR: Forest Whitaker
SCRIPT: Steven Rogers
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Caleb Deschanel
EDITOR: Richard Chew
MUSIC: Dave Grusin
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Larry Fulton
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 8, 1998
AUSTRALIAN VIDEO RELEASE: April 13, 1999
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox