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Then She Found Me
UKScreen Rating:

Then She Found Me – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Primary school teacher April Epner (Hunt) is pushing forty and desperate for children. She’s married, so everything should be OK, right? No. Without warning, her loser husband Ben (Broderick) dumps her.
While she’s still in shock, she gets chatting to Frank (Firth) the devilishly handsome and charmingly insecure British parent of one of her pupils.
In one storyline, April tries to develop a relationship with Frank, but Ben keep trying to worm his way back into her life – with considerably more success than he deserves.
In a parallel storyline, it’s revealed at the start that April has never quite felt like she fitted in to her Jewish family, because she was adopted as a child. So when the death of her adopted mother coincides with the attempt by her birth mother (Midler) to get in touch, she’s – at the very least – interested to find out more about her real family.
With the desire for a child running in the background, behind both stories, the scene is set for a romantic-dramedy of Hollywood proportions.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

“What I really want to do is direct?” is the age-old phrase that everyone in Hollywood supposedly screams at anyone with money who’ll listen, and the Oscar-winning actress (what’s she done of note since As Good As It Gets?) Helen Hunt finally gets her opportunity here.
Let’s hope for her it was a case of getting her one dream project out of her system, because based on the rather workmanlike direction of this film, I’m not sure that she’s worthy of a career behind the camera – at least, not if she’s in front of it too. Directing yourself on camera is something few people have really succeeded in since early Woody Allen, except perhaps George Clooney and Clint Eastwood.
Hunt’s attempt is certainly not anything to be ashamed of, but she just doesn’t shine – either behind the camera or in front.
Looking too old to be playing late thirties – she and Midler look more like sisters than mother and daughter – and her frumpy outfits, while in character, make everything on screen look drab.
Midler, by contrast, of course lights up the screen – but here’s my main complaint about her;
this is a story about a non-Jewish woman who was brought up by a Jewish mother. When her Jewish mother dies, she is found (remember the title) by her specifically-non-Jewish mother. You can almost hear the producers thinking “Hmm…we need a middle-aged actress who specifically does not look Jewish. Can you think of anyone?” Bette Midler, apparently. Irony intended.
Astonishingly, this isn’t even the oddest casting decision – can anything get more surreal than Sir Salman Rushdie playing a gynaecologist?
Broderick does all that’s asked of him and Firth gets to do a bit of angry acting, which makes a change for him, but the plot seems sadly pedestrian and the film can’t really decide whether it wants to make us laugh or cry.
If the idea of a film about a woman in her late thirties who wants a baby appeals, you should’ve caught the recent Baby Mama, which did it with far more warmth, charm and humour.
From conception to infidelity, the search for love – of a man or a mother – this contains many ideas – but they’ve all been tackled in more interesting and clever ways in other films.
Here, they’re largely thrown together and loosely sewn together in a not entirely unsuccessful but largely unsatisfying directorial debut.

opens nationwide 19th September 2008

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