Then She Found Me
EmptyToronto Film Festival
TORONTO — Playing like an adult woman's rejoinder to the Peter Pan factor in recent rom-coms, "Then She Found Me" prefers the mature man to the overgrown boy, gets knocked up without freaking out, and never -- well, maybe once -- goes for the startling gag over the pointed observation. With subtle laughs but solid emotional thrust, it will play very well with older audiences.
In her debut as feature director, Helen Hunt also stars as a teacher whose husband has a change of heart after less than a year of marriage. The earth beneath her continues to shake as her adoptive mother dies and her purportedly real one -- self-obsessed talk show host Bernice, played with pushy panache by Bette Midler -- makes her presence known.
Not a good time for new love, which makes the immediate arrival of Frank such a perfect vehicle for Colin Firth's patented choked-back-emotions act. Frank is the recently-divorced dad of April's student, and the two make a valiant (but doomed, natch) attempt not to ask each other out. Their quick rapport contrasts with the tentative relationship, threatened by half-truths and showbiz flakiness, between April and Bernice.
Then April, who has been worrying about getting too old to have a child, learns her estranged husband got her pregnant on the night he left -- just the spark needed to kick all the plot's tricky relationships into high gear at once. April's poor obstetrician (a truly left-field celeb cameo) hardly knows how many supporters she'll have with her each time she's due for an ultrasound.
Things are moving quickly, but Hunt aims for restrained believability rather than glossy bounce. The script isn't afraid to crack a joke, but it also doesn't want to exploit April's angst for cute laughs; accordingly, Hunt the director allows Hunt the actress to look realistically beat-down from time to time. The relatively sober mood means that when things turn ugly, the blow-ups don't come off as manufactured plot points. (That's particularly true with Firth's character, a memorably damaged suitor.)
The picture is set apart not only by its tone but by the way it takes seriously some elements that might get reduced to window-dressing in a movie more carefully engineered to reach the broadest audience: details of the protagonist's Jewish upbringing, for instance, but especially the attitude toward children, who here aren't fashion accessories but an essential part of the way April and Frank think about where they stand with each other.
That's not the kind of consequence-factoring theme you find in the average date movie, but it helps give "Then She Found Me" a character that many viewers will respond to.
THEN SHE FOUND ME
Killer Films / Blue Rider Pictures / John Wells Prods.
Director: Helen Hunt
Writers: Alice Arlen, Victor Levin, Helen Hunt
Based on the novel by Elinor Lipman
Producers: Helen Hunt, Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Connie Tavel, Christine Vachon
Executive producers: Jeff Geoffray, Louise Goodsill, Walter Josten, Ralph Kamp, Chip Signore, John Wells
Director of photography: Peter Donahue
Production designer: Stephen Beatrice
Music: David Mansfield
Co-producer: Matthew Myers
Costume designer: Donna Zakowska
Editor: Pam Wise
April: Helen Hunt
Frank: Colin Firth
Bernice: Bette Midler
Ben: Matthew Broderick
Freddy: Ben Shenkman
No MPAA rating, running time 100 minutes