Director: Bart Freundlich
Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha, Kelly Gould, Andrew Cherry, Lynn Whitfield, Kate Jennings Grant, Art Garfunkel, Sam Robards, Joanna Gleeson
RunTime: 1 hr 35 mins
Released By: InnoForm Media & Cathay-Keris
Day: 3 February 2011
Sandy's a beautiful, sexy mother of two, who's just turned forty. Living in the neat suburb of Sleepy
Hollow, she's mastered the art of multi-tasking; baking pies, cutting sandwiches, dropping her kids at school, taking care of her fantasy sport's league. What appears to be a picture perfect world is shattered the morning she discovers her husband cheating on her. Immediately she packs up her two kids and moves to New York City to find a job and start a new life. There, she meets Aram Finkelstein, a sweet twenty four year-old college graduate who's clearly at a low point in his life. He just found out his French wife of two weeks duped him into marrying him for a green card. A romantic and optimist and now a recent divorcee, he's struggling to keep his faith in the world.
Aram works two jobs in a Women's Center and as a Barista in the coffee shop below the apartment
Sandy's renting. They strike up an easy friendship. When Sandy gets hired at a New York sport's
network, she asks Aram to babysit her kids. He takes her up on the offer. After all, he has no career, few friends and spends too much time hanging out with his overly concerned parents.
At work, Sandy's career blossoms and she's offered a promotion. Her best friend encourages her to start dating again but after one disastrous night she firmly believes her dating days are over. Meanwhile Aram becomes an increasingly bigger part of their lives. He's fun to be with and her kids love him. Very quickly a makeshift family forms and even though there's a list of reasons they shouldn't be together, they fall in love. Sandy and Aram meet with resistance to their new relationship from friends and family alike and they both have to figure out if what they have found is something that is just fun for now or if it could last forever.
It’s not often you see a May-December rom-com from Hollywood, so kudos to writer-director Bart Freundlich for attempting it in his 2009 movie “The Rebound”. Say what? Yes, it has taken close to two years for this rom-com to hit our shores, and even rarer since it hasn’t ended up straight on home video- call it alternative programming for the long Chinese New Year holiday.
But even if Freundlich’s ambitions are commendable, his movie doesn’t quite live up to expectations. Not quite sure if he should push the social issues related to his unlikely premise or abandon them altogether, Freundlich’s film ultimately ends up as a middling combination of these and the standard Hollywood rom-com clichés. It is a pity, because his two lead stars- Catherine Zeta-Jones and Justin Bartha- are genuinely affable onscreen and believable in their respective roles.
It should be obvious that Zeta-Jones is the older one in the relationship, a 40-year-old mother of two kids who relocates from the suburbs to New York City after discovering her husband’s infidelity. Sandy is your typical NYC-type woman- pretty, witty and sexually confident- so don’t expect her to spend her time moping around and crying over her philandering husband.
Better known as the groom from ‘The Hangover’, Justin Bartha is the 25-year-old mild-mannered Jewish college graduate Aram working in the coffee shop downstairs from Sandy’s apartment whom she engages to babysit her children one night while on a disastrous date. Aram has just been dumped by a French girlfriend, and still trying to find his direction in life, much to the chagrin of his two parents (Art Garfunkel- yes that singer- and Joanna Gleeson).
You can pretty much see where this is going- the kids will like Aram, and Sandy will find herself slowly enjoying his company and discover her growing feelings for him. In that respect, Freundlich follows the usual beats of a Hollywood rom-com- even though his attempts at comedy somehow end up cringe-worthy than amusing. How else would you describe the painfully (literally) unfunny sequence where Aram is dressed as a human punchbag at a ladies’ defense class? Or the one where Sandy’s blind date suddenly pops into a Portaloo mid-kiss and continues their conversation while pooping?
Then occasionally, as a reminder of what should be the most interesting aspect of Sandy and Aram’s budding relationship, her BFF and colleagues will take turns to point out their obvious age difference, mostly as an afterthought than anything serious. Despite a premise ripe for social observations of such age-gap romances, Freundlich keeps the proceedings a little too genial- though it indirectly achieves the effect of diminishing their age differences on their relationship.
Arguably, the film works best when Freundlich isn’t trying to come up with some contrived comic setup for easy laughs, instead allowing the chemistry between the two stars to take centre-stage. That fortunately is the case towards the middle half of the movie, and the easygoing rapport between Zeta-Jones and Bartha will put a smile on your face. By the time that predictable misunderstanding between the two takes place before the end of the movie, you’ll already be rooting for them.
Freundlich does pop in a last-minute surprise at the finish, eschewing the typical happily-ever-after conclusion for something somewhat more realistic but no less charming. Notwithstanding the promise of its age-gap romance which it doesn’t quite make the most of, this rom-com coasts by nicely enough thanks to its appealing stars and their mutual chemistry. So if you need an alternative diversion this holiday, “The Rebound” should do just fine.
(It never quite lives up to the promise of its age-gap romantic premise, but thanks to its appealing stars, this rom-com is not without its charms)
Review by Gabriel Chong