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Birdee Calvert-Pruitt is back in her hometown of Smithville, Texas, after discovering that her husband is having an affair with her best friend, Connie. The entire town knows what happened to flawless beauty Birdee since Connie let her know about the affair on a national talk show. Back in town, she's dealing with catty old friends and acquaintances from high school who can't help rubbing it in her face that she isn't as perfect as she thought while still trying to get back on her feet with her daughter, Bernice. Deeply depressed, she runs into an old friend, Justin Matisse, who tries to help her through, but is still in love with her. Birdee must make a new life for her and her daughter, but will Justin be able to be part of it? Written by
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Lensed by the great Caleb Deschanel, this buttery tale of love lost and hope found actually manages to rise above the excesses of its emotionally bombastic script. This is a weeper and the dirty tricks of the trade are apparent in all its manipulative confrontation, revelation and redemption scenes. Sweet like ice cream and sickening like a chocolate overdose, HOPE FLOATS is a delicious exercise in viewer survival.
The sun-dappled cinematography, though reliant on soft-focus, is beautiful like Romantic American oils. Shot in gorgeous earth tones, HOPE FLOATS is a stunning series of postcards, the better onto which graft the sickness of relationship disfunctions. The painterly still shot of the main character taking a photograph through a window still haunts me, as does the magnificent late sequence drenched in rain.
Thankfully for the viewer, the manichean script is brought to life with a breezy confidence by Forest Whitaker. This assured artist has worked with the likes of Jim Jarmush and Clint Eastwood, and it shows in his cool camera work and straightforward approach to material that is little better than the "reality talk shows" it twice decries. Himself an actor, the director pulled bravura performances out of his main cast.
For the real star of this show is the acting: from Harry Connick Jr's solid performance to the great Gena Rowlands spot-on delivery, it's all good. Mae Whitman devastates in her "money shot" and even the bit parts are interesting to watch. But with a glance, a crooked smile and a much improved body language, it is star Sandra Bullock who proves the real gem in a movie that sparkles with all the pretension of a jewellery store. The underplayed, devastating opening scene is worth a dozen scenery-chewing showpieces - and then some.
There is quite a bit of emotional baggage borrowed in PRACTICAL MAGIC here, but the underpinnings are far better. Fearless, engaged and precise, Bullock's performance is a virtuoso piece that makes watching HOPE FLOATS a real treat; I have never seen her more bold or more beautiful (even as a vamp in MISS CONGENIALITY) - she is absolutely gorgeous here.
Manipulation and honesty mixed in an effective, emotional pressure-cooker, HOPE FLOATS may just make you sick like a roller-coaster. But for anyone interested in Sandra Bullock, it is required viewing . ..
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