Fed up with her small-town Bay City existence, Adele August leaves her family and second husband and heads for Beverley Hills with her daughter. The teenager resents the move and her mother's always flamboyant behaviour and in turns plans to get away to university on the east coast. Mum's plans are different - she wants a movie star for a daughter. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the scene where Adele wakes up Ann to go see the sun rise, they are looking West out on the Pacific Ocean, but the sun would be rising in the East, not the West. To view anything in that direction, they would be watching the sun set. See more »
Ann! Come here, sweetie. This is Dr. Spritzer. This is my daughter, Ann.
Ahh, a big girl.
Oh yes! We're more like sisters.
So you're the actress, I hear.
Oh no! Not me, her. My mom. My mom's the actress.
Silly girl, don't be shy. Dr. Spritzer's an orthodontist and he works with the actresses. He did Heather Locklear. Her teeth.
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The mother-daughter genre of film is one that is usually laced with caustic wit (POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE) or draining melodrama (TERMS OF ENDEARMENT). ANYWHERE BUT HERE is the latest entry into this undernourished genre. Falling somewhere in between the two examples above, ANYWHERE is a passable, but strangely distant film. One that for every unsuitable move it makes, it has Natalie Portman and Susan Sarandon to make the wrongs seem so very right.
Abruptly leaving her husband and family behind in Wisconsin, Adele August (Sarandon) takes her teenage daughter Ann (Portman) across the country to live the good and free life in Los Angeles. Having freshly minted a tumultuous relationship with this sudden move, the two find themselves in the strange position of having to rely on themselves and each other in the big bad city. Adele is flighty, irresponsible, and refuses to settle into her role as the parent. Ann is lonesome, homesick, and not sure about the love she has within for her mother. Over the years we watch as struggle after struggle continually opposes the family, with each battle reinforcing the love the two share. Told from Ann's perspective, ANYWHERE is essentially a film about trying to understand the people related to us. The bonds we share with our parents, and how those bonds always seem to work against us.
Based on a novel by Mona Simpson and a screenplay by crisis legend Alvin Sargent (ORDINARY PEOPLE), ANYWHERE is the kind of tragic-comic filmmaking that I usually crave. Unfortunately, ANYWHERE is far from touching. Directed by Wayne Wang, the film isn't nearly as resonate as Wang's earlier multigenerational epic THE JOY LUCK CLUB. Watching Adele and Ann struggle with their growing relationship is more tiring than emotionally satisfying. The flow of the drama fluctuates so much, by the end you're just glad the filmmakers didn't throw in one last argument for good measure. At 120 minutes, ANYWHERE is about six crisis over the limit.
It's the acting in ANYWHERE that takes the film to another level. We all know Susan Sarandon can spin gold with her acting, yet each new film she's been involved with recently (save the September vanity project ILLUMINATA) has shown more and more how commanding an actress she truly is. In ANYWHERE, only Sarandon could give Adele the most annoying characteristics yet ground the performance in love and warmth. Adele really does care for her daughter, she just desperately wants to maintain her own identity for once in her life. Bursting out onto the screen like some kind of Southern California Pokemon, her performance is grand and inviting.
But where does that leave Natalie Portman? After shimmying up into films with should-be-legend performances in THE PROFESSIONAL and the locally shot BEAUTIFUL GIRLS, Portman is like no other teenage actress working today. It's a testament to her sensibilities that we haven't seen her in the latest SCREAM variation or this next wave of AMERICAN PIE type comedies. Portman carries ANYWHERE with grace and dignity. Director Wang should be given the Oscar alone for his choice to just linger on Portman's face for extended times. As expressive as her acting can be, Portman can live a million lives in one glance. With Sarandon, the two create a complex and agreeable mother-daughter relationship for their characters. They share overwhelming chemistry and I hope this won't be the last time the two decide to work together.
Shot with a sparkling color palette by Roger Deakins, Wang captures both the frail beauty of Los Angeles and it's hard realities. I also give Wang credit for properly using dim-bulb actor Shawn Hatosy(OUTSIDE PROVIDENCE). In a small role as Ann's beloved cousin, Hatosy finally shows some talent and charisma. Unfortunately, the film is scored on autopilot by the self-looting Danny Elfman and features the second most aggressive soundtrack push of the year. The songs rarely fit in with the drama and scream "Buy me on sale at Sam Goody!" too blatantly.
Just like the characters in the film, it's hard to hate ANYWHERE BUT HERE as much as it is hard to love. Had Wang left open the emotion door a little more the film might have made a lasting impact. Too many scenes do not pay off the way they should and not enough texture is given to the characters. I would recommend ANYWHERE BUT HERE, only for the opportunity to bask in the glow of two actresses on the top of their game. -----7/10
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