Helen Hunt and company shine in comically rocky ‘Then She Found Me’
Submitted by SHNS on Wed, 05/14/2008 – 12:37.
By PHIL VILLARREAL, Arizona Daily Star
The premise of Helen Hunt’s romantic comedy “Then She Found Me” is reminiscent of “Rocky IV,” when Rocky tells his wife the circumstances in which he’ll fight Ivan Drago, his revelations increasingly awful.
In Russia, he says. On Christmas Day. For no money.
Hunt’s character, April, finds herself in a similar, almost comically excruciating scenario. First her husband (Matthew Broderick) leaves her, then her adoptive mother dies, then she’s confronted by her birth mother (Bette Midler), whom she never really wanted to meet.
Further complicating matters is that April, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, has a biological clock that’s playing the “Final Jeopardy” theme song.
At least Colin Firth is there, as he is in all romantic comedies, to show the female lead that if she waits long enough, she’ll eventually be swept away by an impossibly kind and nonthreatening single parent played by Colin Firth.
The slyly funny film does its best to make you feel the stress of its Joblike main character, who strives to keep her faith — mostly in herself, although April is religious — in the face of her imploding life. She’s forced to develop relationships with two of the most important people she’ll ever meet while delicately dealing with the loss of the husband she loves yet can no longer stand.
This is no vanity project for Hunt, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay, appearing lined and distressed in most scenes, an ever-present worry dragging down the edges of her face. The actress, who won an Oscar for 1997’s “As Good As It Gets,” proves she also has talent behind the camera, with easy control of comic timing, dramatic weight and brisk pacing. Hunt is an adept manipulator, at one point breaking up a poignant love scene with April’s stomach growling.
Midler injects the film with her distinctive spirit, barely restraining the urge to try to run away with every scene. Her character showers April with an uncomfortable mix of lies and truth, all of which she thinks April needs to hear — including a bizarre whopper that she’s Steve McQueen’s love child. The miscalculated dishonesty threatens the fragile bond between the two women. Both Hunt and Midler, fluidly shifting from bittersweet comedy to raw sentiment, are affecting in their scenes together, particularly when April hammers away with questions about why and how she was given up. They know they should love each other but don’t quite know how.
That’s a theme that flows throughout the aching seams of “Then She Found Me.” Finding a way to compartmentalize your bitterness while keeping your heart open to enlightening relationships is a more difficult task than facing Ivan Drago. In Russia. On Christmas Day. For no money.
3 stars out of 4