Then She Found Me
United States, 2007
U.S. Release Date:
R (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio:
Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Lynn Cohen, Ben Shenkman
Alice Arlen and Victor Levin and Helen Hunt, based on the novel by Elinor Lipman
This is the sort of movie that gives “chick flicks” a bad name. It’s a cross between inept melodrama and a bad sit-com. The “comedy” (for lack of a better word) is obvious, poorly timed, and not especially funny. The “drama” (again, for lack of a better word) is sloppy, sappy, and ineffective. I imagine we’re supposed to feel sympathy for these characters but, with one exception, they are self-absorbed whiners who pretty much deserve what they get. The big emotional catharses at the end are intended to make us smile with delight that everything has turned out okay. By this point, many viewers will be struggling to keep the gag reflex under control.
For years, Helen Hunt came into our living rooms as the female lead in the TV sit-com Mad about You. Motion picture fans may be more familiar with her for The Waterdance, Twister, and As Good as It Gets. Now, in addition to appearing in front of the camera, she’s behind it. Then She Found Me is not only Hunt’s directorial debut, but it’s the first time she has tried penning a screenplay (adapting Elinor Lipman’s novel along with co-writers Vic Levin and Alice Arlen). She has also brought aboard a respectable cast that includes Colin Firth, Better Midler, and Matthew Broderick.
April Epner (Hunt), teacher and all-around child-lover, is having a bad time. Her husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), has announced that he doesn’t feel comfortable being married. He wants out of their union so he can go back and live with his mother. Meanwhile, April’s mother has died and her birth mother (she was adopted as a baby) chooses this opportunity to make contact. Essentially, April’s life has turned into the refrain from a country song. Things don’t get better when she meets with her new old Mom, Bernice (Bette Midler), who wants to make up for 39 years of lost bonding by smothering her daughter and prying into every corner of her crumbling life. For April, things are about to change. She discovers that a bout of “goodbye sex” with Ben has led to the conception of a baby, which puts a crimp in her fledgling relationship with Frank (Colin Firth), the divorced father of a boy in April’s class.
Of the actors, only Colin Firth gets a pass on this one. He invests Frank with a lot of passion, overcoming the contrivances of the screenplay to develop a real character. In fact, this is perhaps the most emotive I can recall the normally laconic British thespian ever being. (He became typecast as Mr. Darcy and has essentially been playing versions of that role for a decade now.) Helen Hunt is okay, but she’s really just playing a variation of her normal theme. Bette Midler’s brassiness is toned down a little, although she’s still grating. Scenes featuring her and Hunt are especially difficult to endure. And Matthew Broderick is so low-key that there are times when one forgets he’s even in the movie.
If there’s a tearjerking trick that Then She Found Me misses, someone will have to enlighten me as to what it might be. As far as I can tell, Hunt pulls out all the stops in her attempts to irritate the tear ducts, but it doesn’t do her much good. It’s necessary to care about the characters for the tragedies in this movie to have any impact, but everyone and everything is artificial and/or saccharine. The degree to which this movie fails may not be shocking but it is disappointing.