Monday, September 1, 2008

A Quickie: Then She Found Me

Then She Found Me

Release: 05.02.08
DVD Release: 09.02.08
Rated R
1 hour, 40 minutes

Matinee ($$$) <
> Full Price ($$$$)

Producer. Director. Writer. Actress. That's a lot of hats for a single person, but Helen Hunt (Pay It Forward) wears them all in Then She Found Me. Hunt portrays April Epner, a middle-aged, devoutly Jewish, elementary school teacher in New York. The adage when it rains it pours must have been created for April; her husband Ben (Matthew Broderick, The Stepford Wives) leaves her, her adoptive mother dies suddenly, she discovers she's pregnant, and her biological mother, Bernice Graves (Bette Midler, Get Shorty), appears on her doorstep looking to learn about the daughter she gave up. In the column of almost-plusses, she begins dating Frank, (Colin Firth, Bridget Jones's Diary), the father of a student at her school, who has been similarly abandoned by his wife.

With this cast of heavy-hitters it almost seems redundant to say the film was well-acted even if some roles were undemanding. Midler's turn as an Oprah-esque talk show host requires her to essentially be the spunky breath of fresh air she does so well. If you ever need an actor to play the perfect man, Firth is at the top of Rolodex. Still, Midler and Firth attack the subject matter with passion. Hunt in particular wears the weighty role of April heavily on her shoulders, though her beleaguered features may have been due to her excessive self-involvement in the picture. Her directorial debut of a feature is decent; Then She Found Me is visually unimpressive, instead focusing on the performances with a style that is steady but unpolished. If anything, Hunt could have used a touch of make-up to hide a few of the worry lines. I'm just saying, when Midler, two decades your senior and playing your mother is more sexually appealing, maybe, just maybe, you want to spruce up a tad more.

The appeal of Then She Found Me is that April is not the tragic martyr you'd expect nor does she receive resolution deserving of a Disney film. Hunt, along with writers Victor Levin (Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!) and Alice Arlen (The Weight of Water) adapted Elinor Lipman's novel and made April a woman not without faults of her own. The whirlwind tale of this climactic period in April's life leaves a lasting impression, in large part due to the melodramatic though relatable characters. Hunt poured all of herself into this film; the least you can do is check it out to see why.

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