This touching, warmly amusing story directed by Helen Hunt follows a schoolteacher April Epner on her very unlikely path toward personal fulfillment. Following her separation from her husband and the death of her adoptive mother, April is contacted by her apparent birth mother, a colourful local talk show host who's not exactly the ideal mom. As she tries to become the mother to April that she never was able to be, April finds solace in the arms of the father of one of her students. With every aspect of her world turned upside down, April must learn how to cope with an age-old truth - life can change in a heartbeat.
The first thing that strikes you is the star studded cast of this movie which never made it to cinemas here. We’ve got two powerhouse female leads: an Oscar winner Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) and a multi Grammy Award winning singer/ comedian/ author Bette Midler (bring on that familiar tune “Wind Beneath My Wings”!). We’ve got two underrated male leads: the rather charming Colin Firth (some female fans still can’t forget his mesmerizing turn in Mama Mia!) and Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick (who’s known to many as Mr. Sarah Jessica Parker, sigh). More importantly, what we don’t understand is how local distributors decided not to give this movie a chance at the theatres, considering that it is Hunt’s directorial debut?
Based on Elinor Lipman’s novel, Hunt co wrote the screenplay with Alice Arlen and Victor Levin to tell the story of a New York schoolteacher who hits a mid life crisis (don’t they all?), and in an unfortunate series of events, has her husband leaving her, her adoptive mother dying on her and her biological mother turning her life upside down. Love comes in the form of a student’s father, and as such self discovery tales go, you can bet that a majority of viewers (probably female) will be suitably inspired when the end credits roll.
There really isn’t anything refreshing about the story here, because you’d probably have seen stories like this before. Besides, you may be living a life like that now. So the highlight of this sturdy movie is really its sure handed direction (good work, Ms. Hunt) and its fine performances from the cast. You’d empathize with Hunt’s character as she adjusts her bra in front of the mirror, trying her best to look attractive. You’d connect with the eccentrics of Midler’s character, and you know a fast talking mother is always welcome in a movie like that. You’d fall in love with Broderick’s droopy eyes, and not blame him for leaving Hunt’s somewhat unattractive character. And if you are a die hard fan of English actor Firth, his performance will definitely fascinate you even more.
One major gripe is that the 100 minute movie can improve on its pacing, because not every joke is spot on here. There’s only so much audiences (especially if you are a guy) can take with regards to jokes about women suffering from mid life crisis. Pardon us if we are being unsympathetic here (okay, this reviewer is a guy who likes his movies fast and furious), but we’d love to look on the brighter side of life to feel inspired.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
This Code 3 DVD contains a Commentary with Helen Hunt where we get to hear how Hunt, as a first time filmmaker made sure that all her cast and crew were following the same direction. She also says that before she took up this directing role, she had listened to many commentaries as a form of preparation. A 12 minute Featurette has almost everyone on set praising Hunt’s talent for directing this movie. A Trailer and Interviews with Hunt, Midler, Firth and Broderick round up the platter of special features.
The disc’s visual transfer is clear, and you can choose to watch the movie in either 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround or 2.0 Dolby Stereo English audio tracks.
by John Li