Then She Found Me

Then She Found Me


Reviewed by: The Exile

Over the course of Then She Found Me — a fertility flick for women whose feet and minds seldom leave the stirrups — Helen Hunt proves once and for all that As Good As It Gets was as good as she gets. As April Epner, a colorless kindergarten teacher whose very name sounds drab, Hunt wears Mormon-compound fashions and carries purses in matching fabrics. Collarbones thrusting from washed-out tops and lank hair scraped cruelly back from an alarmingly gaunt face, Hunt appears in dire need of a facial, a stylist and a hearty meal. What her film needs, on the other hand, is an editor — ideally one without a uterus.

Based on the novel by Elinor Lipman (with which Hunt, who also co-wrote and produced the film, admits to taking strenuous liberties), Then She Found Me revolves around the childless April’s all-consuming need to breed. Had its star and director possessed the nerve to play the story for laughs (where is Nora Ephron when we need her?), this independent labour of love could have become more than just a celebration of labour. As it is, April’s reproduction obsession is handled with all the earnestness of a race for the cure, and the result is a movie that makes a caricature of its heroine and a pathology of her behavior. I’m surprised Hunt’s ovaries don’t have speaking parts.

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Assaulted by a movie’s worth of tragedy in the first 15 minutes, we watch as April loses her adoptive mother (the marvelous Lynn Cohen) and is abandoned by her husband of less than a year (a shuffling Matthew Broderick). “I don’t want this life,” he mumbles before scooting back to his mom, and it’s difficult to blame him. (When your wife looks at you and sees only wriggling sperm, it must be tough to hold on to the romance.) Almost immediately, however, things start looking up with the appearance of Frank (Colin Firth), a hot divorced dad with an adorable toddler and a tendency to fall in love at the first whiff of pheromones. “You’re so beautiful,” he blurts within five minutes of meeting April, a confession that makes you more concerned for his eyesight than his prudence.

On its own, this prickly entanglement of two damaged, but still hopeful souls would have furnished more than enough emotional weight for this fragile film, and allowed Firth to go deeper than his usual abashed sexiness. But Hunt piles on the plotlines, adding a troubled pregnancy (the result of a farewell bonk with her husband) and the triumphant return of April’s unremembered birth mother, Bernice (Bette Midler). A sassy talk-show host with the body and mind of an Almodóvar heroine, Bernice brings colour to April’s life and a welcome jolt of electricity to the movie. And though Midler’s over-the-top personality can occasionally be overwhelming, her scenes with Hunt play like a master class in the difference between star power and cinematic wallpaper. “I’m very verbal during sex,” she confides to her appalled daughter when asked to describe herself; and it’s a testament to Midler’s delivery that the line suggests a clumsy attempt at intimacy rather than self-obsession.

Despite the flagrant good intentions of everyone involved, Then She Found Me is a soggy paean to procreation and gender-as-destiny. Patriarchy has never been so oestrogen-rich.

Reviewed on: 03 Sep 2008
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A childless teacher takes stock of her life after her husband leaves, her adoptive mum dies and her birth mother shows up.
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Director: Helen Hunt

Writer: Alice Arlen, Victor Levin, Helen Hunt, based on the novel by Elinor Lipman

Starring: Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Ben Shenkman, Lynn Cohen, John Benjamin Hickey, Salman Rushdie, Daisy Tahan

Year: 2007

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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