THEN SHE FOUND ME
Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Helen Hunt, Bette
Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick
Director: Helen Hunt
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Image Entertainment
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: September 2, 2008
“I wanted a life more than I wanted you.”
Then She Found Me manages to walk the fine line of mediocrity better than just about any film in recent memory. It flirts with humor without ever being really funny. It toys with drama without ever becoming truly moving. It looks half-heartedly for truth but is content to wade in the shallow end. One right step in any direction could have produced something touching and memorable. One really bad step could have made the picture decidedly awful.
But no, co-writer, director and star Helen Hunt takes no real risks, but I suppose for a first time filmmaker, a little timidity is to be expected. Perhaps her only real chancy move was in casting herself in a role in which, I really hate to say, she was far too old for.
She plays April Epner, a schoolteacher who starts off in the movie getting married to Ben Green (Broderick) and hoping to have a child. But Ben is little more than a child himself. He panics and wants to call a premature end to the marriage. One day later, April’s mom dies.
So far, it sounds like something that would tug on a few heartstrings, but the curiosity begins early. There’s no real tone here…I was never sure if Ben and April’s disastrously short marriage was meant for tears or laughter, and the ironically rapid following of the death of a parent was more of the same. I wanted to react, but nothing came out of me.
April, as it turns out, was adopted. She knew this, but never knew her birth mother, until she shows up in the form of Bernice Graves (Midler), a talk show host whose special guests all seem to be fellow Film Actors Guild members with Helen Hunt (for those of you who saw Team America). Bernice also has a large and disruptive personality, and apparently a flair for embellishing the truth, like when she tells April her father was…ready?…Steve McQueen.
It’s a lot for April to handle, especially when a fellow who could be Mr. Right shows up. Frank (Firth) is a single father of two, and seems sensitive, caring, and understanding, not to mention having a classy British accent to boot. Hot damn.
What could complicate such an instantly perfect relationship? Oh, I don’t know…how about April finding out she’s pregnant with her estranged husband’s child? It could have been a truly story-altering plot device, but every new development in the story just seems like an exercise invented to test the wholesomeness of April and Frank and their blossoming romance. It’s like a few months’ worth of a soap opera storyline mercifully condensed into a hundred minutes.
There’s much about the movie that invites our investment, starting with a terrific ensemble cast. Helen Hunt is an Oscar winner and a terrific actress, and Midler, Broderick and Firth are also all capable and surehanded. But the whole project seems curiously detached, as though exploring for truth was either too frightening or too demanding.
And it seems Ms. Hunt is the only person I can blame, for she not only directed the film, but has her name on the screenplay credits TWICE…figure that one out. I frankly imagined the finished script bound in a yellow cover reading “Woody Allen For Dummies”.
Marriage, divorce, love, loss, parents, children…these are all already a part of everyday life. If you’re going to give us a hundred minutes of it, at least have something more to say. Otherwise, you’re just trapped in a room with some troubled souls for far too long for comfort.
This is a solid if undemanding Blu-ray offering…there’s not much in the style or presentation of the film that makes demands on high definition; in fact, for a brand new film, there are sparse but visible spots and marks here and there. But overall, colors look natural, and detail and contrast levels are handled pretty well.
It’s kind of surprising to see a DTS lossless audio track on a dialogue-oriented film. It sounds fine, but nothing in the movie really stands out in this department other than the spoken words are always clean and clear. Dynamic range and use of satellite signals are both very minimal.
The disc includes a nice commentary track from Helen Hunt, which she mostly aims at first-time directors, because she states she spent a lot of time listening to other commentary tracks before making HER first film. It’s warm and informative. There is also a making-of featurette, a trailer, and bonus interviews with all four cast members.
Then She Found Me is so exceedingly average that you can imagine half of the year’s best films and half of the year’s worst films falling neatly it even piles on either side of it. If Helen Hunt has aspirations of staying in the director’s chair, she’ll have to learn she can’t keep the dice safely in her fist…they need to be rolled once in a while.