Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley can't wait for them to make The Matrix: Rebounded.
She's still got it. He's just getting it.
Here is something I only recently came to realize about myself: I am a Catherine Zeta-Jones fan. I caught a few minutes of Chicago on cable the other night, and while I like that movie just fine (though the fact that it won a Best Picture Oscar remains a source of comedy), I really, really like it when she's on camera. Her big showstopper number, "I Can't Do It Alone," is the movie's high point, and Zeta-Jones performs the hell out of it; it's sexy and athletic and brassy and contains just the right amount of approval-seeking desperation. It's not just Chicago, either; looking back on her filmography, she's almost always doing good and interesting work. Sometimes, she's unexpectedly good in an already-solid movie (Traffic, High Fidelity); other times, she's the best thing about a movie that mostly sucks (No Reservations, America's Sweethearts). She tends to be written off a little because she's so impossibly beautiful, and that's a shame. She's really good.
None of this really helped improve my enjoyment of The Rebound, writer-director Bart Freundlich's romantic comedy shot back in 2009 but which is just now being dumped directly to DVD and Blu-ray after languishing on the shelf. Zeta-Jones stars as Sandy, suburban housewife and mother of two with a seemingly perfect life. When she discovers her husband has been unfaithful, her world is turned upside down; she uproots the kids and moves to the city, taking an apartment over a coffee shop, where she meets a nice young employee named Aram (Justin Bartha, The Hangover), whom she hires on as a full-time babysitter. Before long, Sandy and Aram (who's just recently had his heart broken, too, wouldn't you know?) are spending all kinds of time together and falling in love. Is it just a May-December fling? Or do they have what it takes to make the real thing work?
Like so many recent romantic comedies, most of the problems with The Rebound are not in the concept but in the execution. Writer-director Bart Freundlich (who is married to actress Julianne Moore) has an interesting idea for a movie here, about an older woman falling in love with a younger man, but that doesn't seem to be the movie he's interested in making. Time and again, the film dodges the very questions it should be addressing head on in favor of "wacky" comic beats (like a scene in which the couple goes on a date to some amateur theater, and the actors are performing a scene from Top Gun! Hahahaha) or emotional shortcuts. The age difference never presents a problem for the couple except when it is required to for the purposes of the plot; like all romantic comedies, The Rebound must have a false crisis on its way to the inevitable happy ending. The way that crisis is resolved, though, actually flies in the face of the rest of the movie—it wants to argue that age doesn't matter, except to say that, yes, it does, only to say that maybe it didn't really matter after all, but also it did a little bit. If you're confused, you ought to be. The movie can't keep its own emotional logic straight.
Zeta-Jones is charming, of course, though she's saddled with a role as emotionally schizophrenic as the rest of the movie. The pain of her husband's betrayal is never taken seriously, really, and instead is dealt with through some unfunny slapstick involving a guy in one of those padded sumo suits. While I would love to applaud the fact that Freundlich has written a part for an actress in her 40s, it's a bit disheartening that he's only done so because that is what the movie is about. It would be nice if we could get a movie starring a mature actress that's willing to consider more than her age. Justin Bartha is likable enough, though remains an actor I've never quite warmed to. Maybe it's because my first exposure to him was as the developmentally disabled character in Gigli, who spent most of the movie talking about how he wanted to go to "the Baywatch" (he really meant the beach; don't the developmentally disabled say the darndest things?). I've never been able to shake that image of him. He's been kind of smug and unfunny in a few other movies as well, including The Hangover and both National Treasure movies, so it was nice to see a warmer, more relaxed side of him here. His scenes with Zeta-Jones could have really been something if The Rebound would just allow its characters time to really get to know one another. Instead, it just keeps throwing lazy, contrived obstacles in their path. Life and love are hard enough to navigate without having to invent movie problems.
The Rebound comes to Blu-ray (years after it was made) in a no-frills Blu-ray from Fox. They've done their usual dependable job here, with a handsome 1080p transfer of the movie that brings out the warmth and naturalism in the photography. Skin tones look good, fine detail is evident throughout and there were no traces of aliasing or banding. It looks, in a word, pleasant. The lossless surround audio track isn't asked to do much, but handles the dialogue clearly and balances it well with the occasional music cue. That's pretty much all there is to it. The only bonus feature included is a collection of brief interviews with Zeta-Jones, Bartha and writer/director Freundlich. Seeing as this is a movie that set on the shelf for almost three years, it's not really surprising that no one wanted to pour any more money or resources into a supplemental section.
Shame about The Rebound, really. It wastes a perfectly good showcase for Catherine Zeta-Jones, blows an opportunity for a more adult romantic comedy and makes a compelling case for the decline of Bart Freundlich's career. When a movie sits on the shelf for three years and gets dumped right to DVD, there's usually a good reason. Here's a movie that's proof of that.
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