Then She Found Me
Helen Hunt's features have sharpened with age. Now in her 40s, Hunt's paper-thin skin shows the wrinkles around her eyes even when she's not smiling and, somehow, her nose and lips have caught up with her narrow body and look like they could cut you. She's been working hard, and it shows. Directing, writing, co-producing, and co-starring in Then She Found Me, Hunt has evolved into more than just a leading lady who can go head to head with heavyweight Jack Nicholson.
And she's a wonder to watch as April Epner, a preschool teacher freshly married to fellow teacher Ben (Matthew Broderick). April's inability to conceive hurts her, and her mother's advice to adopt stings because she doesn't want to. It's a sensitive subject approached honestly: Who says out loud that they don't want to adopt? The fact that April herself was adopted into the loving Jewish household where she grew up isn't ironic as much as it is illuminating. What she desperately wants is a blood connection, made more difficult when her louse of a husband leaves her.
That's a wealth of background information, and it comes quickly right at the start of Found Me, but it becomes more subtle as it goes. Like the best movies that take the quiet route to small--in the scheme of things--yet grand statements about the lives of the people in them, Found Me tells much with little: April's sharp features look odd against her brother's at the Seder; her husband's baseball cap illustrates his childish determination to resist commitment; her mother and father die before her birth mother contacts her.
Even quiet, largely emotional movies need a spark to keep their motor running, and just when April is at a low point, the divine Bette Midler enters the picture as her birth mom, Bernice Graves, a flaming fireball of a personality--and local television talk show host--who wants a relationship with her far too broken daughter. Midler has always excelled in roles that use her natural talents, and Bernice's celebrity persona, true wit, and real hurt--real enough to empower her with empathy--give the actress something to chew on.
While together, the two women engage and disengage like it means something important. It feels the same between Hunt and the single dad of one of her students, Frank (Colin Firth), although his bitterness and aggression get to be a bit much. While Broderick took his bad-guy role down a notch by portraying lethargy as sexy--yeah, a pussy can be that guy you long for even though he's bad for you--Firth dials up. It's a little annoying but still, damn sexy. In short, Hunt has directed herself a little gem in Then She Found Me, in which her blue eyes may be wary with wisdom but it's a delight to see her laugh.