New York Jew Benjamin 'Ben' suppressed his child-wish for ten years, but finally leaves his wife and school colleague April Epner, which most of all disappoints her dying bossy adoptive ... See full summary »
A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle as he tries to renovate the estate to be sold.
New York Jew Benjamin 'Ben' suppressed his child-wish for ten years, but finally leaves his wife and school colleague April Epner, which most of all disappoints her dying bossy adoptive mother Bernice Graves, who has hell-bent on grandchildren, while Bernice's natural son Freddy, a doctor, is most understanding. Shy but fascinating British author Frank meets April, his doted son Jimmy Ray's teacher, which soon leads to a full-flung affair. Only then April discovers she's finally expecting Ben's baby, but both are emotionally committed elsewhere. Written by
Another Biological Clock Ticks But Hunt Provides Heart and Conviction to Her Directorial Debut
Having just seen "Baby Mama", which covers the same emotional territory but in much broader slapstick terms, this 2008 serio-comedy is driven far more by character than situation. In this case, the protagonist is 39-year-old April Epner, a New York schoolteacher who was raised in a close-knit Jewish family and desperately wants the biological connection of a birth child before her alarm clock goes off. She marries fellow teacher Ben, an inarticulate schlub with a terminal case of the Peter Pan Syndrome. After a brief time, he wants out of the marriage, and at almost the same time, April's adoptive mother Trudy dies. Not even a month goes by before April's biological mother suddenly shows up in the form of the brazenly overbearing but genuinely likable Bernice Graves, a cable talk-show hostess who is something of a local media celebrity. If life was not complicated enough, April also finds herself drawn to Frank, the single father of one of her pupils. Unlike Ben, he feels the same about April but is fighting his own bitterness about his own recent divorce.
Not only does Helen Hunt star as April, but she also co-wrote the screenplay with Alice Arlen and Victor Levin and makes her big-screen directorial debut. Granted she's more impressive as an actress than a filmmaker, but as a director and writer, she makes the most of a storyline that stacks the deck a bit like a Lifetime TV-movie. There are enough realistic surprises that take the plot off the rails in a good way. Looking gaunt and avoiding much make-up, Hunt is really playing a variation of the beaten-down waitress she played in "As Good As It Gets", as she carries that same constantly pained expression of disappointment and looks about to explode during moments of emotional duress. However, a decade later, Hunt inhabits the character more naturalistically this time and with a deeper sense of vulnerability and haggard exhaustion. Perhaps to minimize any unnecessary dramatic risk, Hunt cast the other principal roles with actors playing familiar parts. Matthew Broderick effectively portrays Ben as the perpetually dazed man-child he is, while perennial love interest Colin Firth gives texture to the seemingly ideal suitor Frank, especially as he edges toward the breaking point in tolerating the sum of April's foibles.
In one of her increasingly rare screen appearances, Bette Midler gives a scene-stealing performance as Bernice. She lights up the movie with Bernice's unfettered sense of abandonment while gradually exposing the secrets that threaten to undermine her newly found relationship with her daughter. Other parts are played with minimum fuss - Ben Shenkman as April's physician brother Freddy feeling put-upon for having a biological tie to their mother, and Salman Rushdie (author of "The Satanic Verses" which brought him a death sentence from the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989) as April's doctor. Hunt provides her actors, especially herself, plenty of good, meaty scenes with opportunities for bravura moments. It just doesn't quite come together as a whole by the end, and that may be that Hunt is so used to the sitcom format of the long-running series, "Mad About You". The result is that some laughs feel a bit contrived, some scene transitions seem jarring, and some expected character revelations are given short shrift. Nonetheless, the dramatic developments toward the end carry the emotional impact necessary to make the movie truly affecting, and Hunt should be given credit for a most auspicious debut as a filmmaker.
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