Kevin's Review: Then She Found Me - Helen Hunt's Happy Start
by Kevin Powers
May 8, 2008
Where has Helen Hunt been? The 44-year-old actress was a hot property during the late nineties and around the millennium, but she's largely laid low since then. She's now starring as the lead in Then She Found Me, which serves as a bit of a return for her to the mainstream, as well as her debut as a director. She did one thing right from the start as a virgin behind the camera: cast Bette Midler. If ever there were a chick-flick tractor beam for adults, it's Midler and her undying cred from Beaches. Wrap this around a sentimental mother-daughter movie about modern day life and love, and you have guaranteed box office gold. Let's hope so. Then She Found Me is a great directorial first for Hunt that manages to touch on an impressive number of grown-up dramas, while keeping the comedy as pure accessory, resulting in a grounded and very likable film.
Hunt's character, April, is a melancholy middle-age woman that is the victim of a confluence of misfortunes. First her husband, a wet-rag of a man Ben (Matthew Broderick), leaves her for no obvious reason. Shortly thereafter, April's adoptive mother dies; then she discovers her parting sex with Ben has resulted in her long-wanted pregnancy; then she is reacquainted with her birth mother, Bernice (Midler), who gave her up at just one year old. These events make Hunt's older appearance and familiar flat tone all the more effective. April is a 39-year-old woman starting over. Who wouldn't be a little run down?
As April begins to understand her new life as someone who is single, pregnant and in possession of a biological mother, she meets Frank (Brit Colin Firth), a single father of two who is even more exhausted than she is. (His unruly, curly hair and frenzied, clipped dialogue make this abundantly clear.) The reticence of their courtship and sharing of their respective dramas is humorously real -- nothing laugh-out-loud, but quietly smirk-worthy and comfortable. Much of the film materializes like this.
Obviously, with such a movie as this there are highs and lows and foreseen turns. None of it feels overly contrived, save for Midler's character who is now a recognized daytime talk show host with gobs of money. Money makes dealing with life's little earthquakes so much easier, no?
As for Hunt, she's commendable as a first-time director. Much of the film has a very seasoned feel to it, though it doesn't reek of formula. There are a few times when the camera sloppily wanders, presumably capturing something innocuous for texture or accessory. And a number of brief, strange cameos from Tim Robbins, Janeane Garofalo and others riddle the film as well; there seems to be no reason for them.
Then She Found Me also dances on the periphery of the pregnancy trend, fueled by the likes of Knocked Up and Juno. But unlike those that have come before it, Hunt's film commits to its adult trajectory and delivers some surprising maturity, humor and emotion to the topic -- just as it does with the other mini-dramas that color her refreshingly sophisticated first.