TSFM Review: Tulsa World

Tulsa World
Then She Found Me
by: JAMES VANCE World Scene Writer
6/6/2008 12:00 AM

Helen Hunt hasn’t registered very strongly on the big screen since her 1997 Oscar-winning turn in “As Good as It Gets,” but with her new film, “Then She Found Me,” she’s making up for lost time.

As the central character, Hunt is onscreen for virtually the entire film. It also marks her directing debut. And she co-wrote the script. Oh, yeah, and she’s also one of the producers. There’s no indication that she sewed the costumes or painted the sets, but it’s safe to say that if you erased her contribution to this movie, you’d be left with little more than a bag of popcorn and a blank screen.

The film opens with schoolteachers April (Hunt) and Ben (Matthew Broderick) tying the knot — but the rabbi has barely completed the ceremony before we suspect that this isn’t going to be a storybook romance. On the verge of entering her 40s, April is so obsessed with the idea of motherhood that she’s a little scary. Ben, on the other hand, is an immature twit who has no business raising a child. Sure enough, before you know it, Ben has run home to Mama and April is on her own again.

At least, until — in the world’s shortest rebound — she finds herself falling for Frank (Colin Firth), the divorced father of one of her students. Scruffy, a little bitter but undeniably charming, Frank possesses the stability that she so desperately needs but April is so consumed by her own neuroses that she can’t help pushing him away.

It doesn’t help that she’s also contending with the sudden arrival in her life of Bernice (Bette Midler), a brassy cable talk show host who claims to be April’s biological mother. Having just buried the woman who raised her, the last thing April needs is a stranger bent on convincing her that her entire life has been a lie — especially when Bernice herself appears to be incapable of telling the truth about who the biological father was.

Yes, it’s another brainy chick flick — but this one is a lot more about the individuals involved than their fabulous footwear, and even the guys who get dragged into the theater may find themselves drawn into the story.

If you can get past the occasional patches of too-witty repartee, April’s incessant nattering about her biological clock and Hunt’s relentlessly de-glamorized performance, you’ll find some interesting things happening onscreen. It’s obviously a film that takes a look at different sides of motherhood, but it also has some sharp and entertaining points to make about personal responsibility. Everyone realizes just how far he or she is willing to go to do the right thing, and at some point each of them fails in a significant way. Those who ultimately succeed do so not because they’re natural-born winners, but because of the actions they elect to take after they’ve failed.

Hunt has assembled a first-rate cast to tell this story. Low-key Firth and bravura Midler threaten to walk off with virtually every scene, and Broderick is very nearly as arresting with his stealth performance as a charismatic wimp.

But make no mistake it’s Hunt’s show all the way. As driven, exhausted April, she carries the film on her back and delivers a winsome and quietly powerful performance that reminds us after all this time of just what an accomplished performer she is.

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