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Then She Found Me
And Almost Lost the Audience
by Mel Valentin on May 02, 2008
Helen Huntís (As Good as It Gets, "Mad About You") first film, Then She Found Me debuted at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. Along with Alice Arlen and Victor Levin, Hunt adapted Elinor Lipmanís 1990 novel. She also stars as April Epner, a 39-year old schoolteacher facing a midlife crisis, exacerbated when her immature husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), leaves her and moves back in with his mother. To add to an already emotionally wrenching time for April, her birth mother, Bernice Graves (Bette Midler), a local television host, has just showed up after the death of Aprilís adopted mother, hoping to reconnect with April and make up for lost time.
The bad turns to good, however, when April meets Frank (Colin Firth), the father of one of her students, Jimmy Ray (Tommy Nelson) and Jimmyís younger sister, Ruby (Daisy Tahan). A bundle of exposed vulnerabilities, Frank is still in recovery mode from the abrupt end of his marriage to a painter who left him for an around-the-world journey of artistic and sexual self-discovery. But just as Frank and Aprilís tentative romantic relationship moves to firmer grounder, Ben reappears, motives unclear. Then thereís the ever-obtrusive Bernice, who may or may not be who she says she is and whose motivations are also unclear.
At times predictable, at times contrived, at times too earnest for its (or our) own good, Then She Found Me doesnít bend or break any conventions associated with the romantic comedy/drama. Aprilís midlife crisis will lead, as it always does, to a better, deeper understanding of who she really is and what she truly wants (as opposed to what or who she thinks she wants). Risks are, by necessity, taken and, as usual in these types of films, rewarded, but not without a few misunderstandings and emotional anguish. In other words, April has some difficult life lessons to learn before the end credits roll (and learn them she does).
The gender politics of a central character obsessed by becoming a mother and finding a steady romantic partner (definitely in that order) are, however, questionable (or at least open to question). Her career and her family are secondary to her desire to have a baby. She refuses to consider adoption, due to her own adoption. Itís a reductive, overly simplistic rationale, but these types of rationales and explanations are often used to explain away a characterís singular focus on a particular goal. April sees the nuclear family, with first Ben and, later, Frank, as her second goal. Her inability to get either one of her goals in turn cause her to spin into despair, frustration, and eventually, into a full-blown midlife crisis.
Still, Then She Found Me isnít as bad as all that sounds, due primarily to strong performances by a talented cast. Hunt certainly knows how to elicit convincing performances from her cast, even if some, like Matthew Broderick, Colin Firth, and Bette Midler are well within their comfort zones (i.e., playing characters weíve seen them play before). Hunt gives a subtle, grounded performance as April, lost, hurt, and confused at first, but gradually becoming more confident in her life choices. It also says something about Hunt the director that she doesnít try to hide Hunt the actressí seeming exhaustion at the cascade of events that leave her sleepless, exhausted, and desperate to find a new center in her life.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
by Mel Valentin on May 02, 2008