Judge Clark Douglas will find you. Oh yes, he will.
Life can change in a heartbeat.
"I need to take a walk."
Facts of the Case
April (Helen Hunt, As Good As It Gets) is a 39-year-old schoolteacher who has finally decided to settle down. She's gotten married, and she has determined that she wants to have a baby before it's too late. Things quickly take an unexpected turn: her husband (Matthew Broderick, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) decides that he doesn't want to be a married man and walks out. Just as quickly, things get even worse: April's adoptive mother passes away. Shortly after, April is contacted by her birth mother (Bette Midler, The Stepford Wives), a popular television talk show host. April is informed that she is the product of a one-night-stand with Steve McQueen. Of course, our dear protagonist is quite confused by all of this, and attempts try and sort the pieces of her life together. Along the way, she begins to fall in love with the father of one of her students (Colin Firth, Where The Truth Lies).
Helen Hunt's Then She Found Me is a story in search of a tone. It introduces a few characters, quickly shifts moods, and leaves the viewer feeling a little bit befuddled. I don't suppose it's really all that bad, but it gave me an upset stomach. Things move far too quickly. We're introduced to Helen Hunt's character, April Epner. She's married, she breaks up, her mother dies, and none of it really registers. It all happens so quickly, and we aren't really able to relate to these characters or understand their behavior. This is capped by a terrible dialogue scene between Hunt and Bette Midler. It's an obnoxiously over-the-top and strange sequence. Midler yaps noisily and interrupts everyone she speaks to; Hunt looks irritated and cranky. I got the feeling that this whole thing seemed a lot more coherent inside the heads of those who planned it.
I wish I could say that it was just a rough start, that things eventually get smoother and that the film finds some sort of stability. I can't. The movie starts rolling downhill from the very beginning, and it never stops. When it's all finished, you're left with a bruised and battered mess of a movie. What is going on here? The back of the case indicates that the movie was written by "Alice Arlen and Victor Levin & Helen Hunt and Helen Hunt." Did you read that twice? If this film were a book, you would constantly be double-checking the words. Actually, it is a book, written by Elinor Lipman. I have no idea how much of this film is her fault.
The odd nature of the dialogue scenes seems to suggest that much of the dialogue was improvisational. I'm just speculating here and could be complete wrong, but it certainly feels that way. The cast is comprised of some pretty well-known names: Helen Hunt, Matthew Broderick, Colin Firth, and Bette Midler. Maybe they tried some new things that didn't work, and nobody had the guts to tell them that it didn't work. Maybe the writing was just awkward and forced to begin with. Maybe the book was just that way before anybody decided to make it into a movie. Author Salman Rushdie is here for some strange reason, playing Hunt's doctor. Perhaps they should have asked him to doctor the screenplay a little bit.
I realize that I'm offering a lot of befuddlement and not a lot of insight, but Then She Found Me really is puzzling. One moment it seems to be a thoughtful drama about a woman's life, another moment it turns into a goofy comedy. All of the scenes with Hunt and Midler are particularly odd. Hunt is a hit-and-miss actress, and this is one of her big misses. Her performance is unfocused and slightly grating. Midler seems to be attempting to overcompensate with cheery enthusiasm, but her performance is an equal misfire. Midler's scenes incorporate a lot of broad comedy into the proceedings, but it just seems terribly out-of-place here. Her big dramatic scene late in the film seems even less convincing. She and Hunt have absolutely no chemistry together, and often seem to be talking around each other rather than directly to each other. Meanwhile, Matthew Broderick doesn't really seem to know what to do with his character.
The transfer is a little disappointing. This isn't a very eventful film from a visual standpoint, but flesh tones seem a little off and the image isn't quite as sharp as you might hope. Sound is okay, but there is a little bit of distortion in some of the dialogue. Special features include a commentary with Helen Hunt, a featurette, and a trailer.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The single saving grace of the movie is the performance of Colin Firth. He creates a memorable, likable, and believable character that we are instantly drawn to. Every scene he is in works, usually because he finds a way to make it work. It's a shame that his very good work here isn't rooted in a better film.
Helen Hunt's Then She Found Me could have been a pretty good film if…oh, I don't know. It's a pretty big mess. Maybe it could never have been good. I wish I had something positive to report here. Unfortunately, it's a minor disaster. Let's hope Helen Hunt's next directorial outing finds some stronger footing.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Image Entertainment
• Commentary w/Helen Hunt
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