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Hey, Temple-Dwellers, MG here. Prepare for another gracious blessing from the fabulous fingertips of our dearest Dollie banner. Read on to find out how  Dollo found Then She Found Me. Dig it!

  Actress Helen Hunt came into prominence and popularity on the long- running comedy series "Mad About You" winning 4 Emmy awards in the process. Unfortunately, her sitcom roots really show in her screenwriting and directorial debut, "Then She Found Me".

  Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Elinor Lipman, Hunt plays April Epner, a schoolteacher in her late 30’s, who is desperate for children of her own. Having been adopted herself, April stubbornly refuses to consider similar options when she's unable to conceive with her longtime friend but newly minted husband, Ben (former Project X co-star Matthew Broderick). Her desperation and unfulfillment only worsen when her adoptive mother passes away and
Ben decides moving back in with his mother is a better option than a life with April. Already feeling fragile, April has difficulty accepting two new people into her life. First is Frank Harte (played with great tenderness and charm by Colin Firth), a handsome and wounded widower whose son is in April's class.  Second is Bernice (the divine Miss Bette Midler), a bold local talk show host who sweeps in claiming to be April's birth mother.

   Helen Hunt has been a working actress most of her life, and I used to be very fond of her. I must have watched 1985's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" every time it played on cable, so I applauded when Hunt's career took off nearly a decade later. But by the time she took home the Oscar for James L. Brooks’ neuroses fest "As Good as It Gets" I missed the natural way she embodied characters in her earlier roles. During her years in front of the camera she has developed a comedic shorthand that reads a touch false. This tendency undermines her work here, which is doubly unfortunate because Hunt handles the dramatic moments with a great deal of skill and has a deft hand at both writing and directing. Together with co-writers Alice Arlen and
Victor Levin, Hunt has crafted a romantic comedy that has far more quiet and emotional moments than the genre usually boasts. In a film that could easily follow a ready formula with broad characters, every effort has been made to find something deeper and more nuanced. The only drawback may be Hunt casting herself as the lead. It took the trio more than five years to nail down the script and another five to get it produced, leaving Hunt 5 years older than her character, every year of which shows on the big screen. I hate to be petty like that, but Hunt's apparent age really distracted me from the story, especially in the scenes with the joyous Midler where it was hard to accept that they were mother and daughter.

    Despite these shortcomings, Hunt has made a lovely little film worth seeing for two main reasons, Midler and Firth. Midler shines as the sometimes overbearing Bernice. She takes what could be a flashy role and complicates it with a show of very genuine concern and lack of self-interest.  And Firth is a dream. I admittedly have a huge crush on Colin, not a Bridget Jones-size obsession, but not far behind. I'm thrilled that he broke the villainous swine (see Circle of Friends and Shakespeare in Love) casting he was stuck in to forge a new type as the vulnerable and self-effacing romantic lead. Hunt admits that she put a lot of herself in each role, and Frank definitely displays some feminine characteristics. Yet Firth plays him with so much humor and pain blended together that Frank comes off like the perfect man. Hunt did know what she was doing when she cast herself such a delightful leading man and how can I fault her for that? I just look forward to her second career behind the camera.


~ Dollie Banner

April 25th, 2008




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