Hope Floats

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

You must have guessed from the title. This is a woman's picture. With Forest Whitaker directing. The last time (first for him) he was behind the camera was Waiting To Exhale; a film about women - black women. Sandra Bullock hasn't had much luck since driving the bus (Speed). She is executive producer and star. Harry Connick, Jr (yes, the singer) stands in as love interest.

Hope finally sinks when you notice that Gena Rowlands is being bold, eccentric and big-hearted again. The best grandma in the world. What is worse, the movie opens on a Ricki Lake groanalike TV show, where Birdee (Bullock) is told before millions of viewers that her best friend (Rosanna Arquette) is having an affair with her husband (the rat!). Despite everything (and there's a whole lot of everything), the screenplay allays your fears. It is not about finding the one true whoever, after being dumped by the man you thought you could trust. It's about the sadness of going home to mother with an eight-year-old daughter and your dreams in bits.

Home is Smithville, Texas, where things haven't changed since Birdee left for Chicago with the high school football hero, married, happy and the envy of every cheerleader. Returning after a public humiliation on national television, hurts. Mom busies herself stuffing dead animals in the basement and cooking square meals and keeping her daughter cheerful (trying). Eight-year-old Bernice (the wonderful Mae Whitman) is bullied at school, finds her mopey mother annoying and misses her dad. Birdee does down, can't get out of bed, is miserable and won't let dishy-but-dim handyman, Justin Matisse (Connick), play Misty for her. The film is not so much a love story as a tough-love story.

Steve Rogers' script is sharp enough and sugar free (that's relative, or course - the ending is candy floss). Bullock has a gift for the natural and she's intelligent - you can see it in her face, like you can see it in Emma Thompson - which makes a nonsense of the opening sequence. This lady is too bright to have anything to do with tabloid TV. The way she and Whitman play off each other is so good. The Connick country boy charm works on another plain - a flat one, far away. Justin (where did they find a name like that in Texas?) wouldn't make it to first base if he joined the team. He's too slow. Whitaker directs with finesse and delicacy. Hope floats fine, but doesn't go anywhere.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Hope Floats packshot
A woman dealing with the aftermath of divorce, returns to her home town.
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Director: Forest Whitaker

Writer: Steven Rogers

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr., Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Michael Pare, Cameron Finley, Kathy Najimy

Year: 1998

Runtime: 114 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

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