Helen Hunts and Found Colin Firth
Helen Hunt's "Then She Found Me" which also features the talents of Bette Midler and Colin Firth, is one of those movies you could end up watching and finish feeling disappointed as it never makes up its mind what it really wants to be, sitting on the fence and dipping its toes into various genres. You see, as a comedy it never has that many laughs, as a drama it is rarely that dramatic and as a romance it lacks that spark to make it feel romantic. It just floats between all three of them and never commits to being one. Saying that "Then She Found Me" is not a bad movie and even a semi-predictable storyline doesn't totally spoil it but in the same breathe it is neither a good movie and I doubt this mellow melo-drama will stay in people's memory for that long after they've watched it.
After her husband Ben (Matthew Broderick - Deck the Halls) leaves her and with her adoptive mother dying, struggling school teacher April Espner (Helen Hunt - A Good Woman) finds a friend in Frank (Colin Firth - Love Actually) a recently divorced parent. But matters get worse when April's real mother Bernice (Bette Midler - What Women Want), an eccentric chat show host, turns up wanting to take over the motherly duties and Ben decides that maybe he was wrong to leave her. All of this makes matters worse as at 39 April knows her chances of becoming a mother are passing her by and is desperate to have a child of her own.
The good thing about "Then She Found Me" is that the underlying storyline is quite interesting with some realistic elements and some which are exaggerated. With the main storyline flitting between April's reunion with her real mother Bernice, her fear of never having children as her body clock keeps on ticking, her separation from her husband and the new romance with divorcee Frank, "Then She Found Me" has plenty going on and the balance between each is masterfully done. One of the things I do like about the movie is that it never feels one sided and all these various story elements get equal attention helping to build up the storyline so that despite flaws it is interesting.
The trouble is that as already mentioned "Then She Found Me" never lays claim to being one thing or another. In a storyline which sees April not only having to deal with choices when it comes to her real mother as well as having children the heightened tension of these elements never comes across. I never really felt the despair of the situation or April's feelings when she obviously should have been feeling confused and vulnerable. In the same manner when she meets the recently divorced Frank the romance between them seems often too obvious but never having that spark or buzz you would expect. Some may say this gives the romance that realistic feel but for me it didn't, instead making it feel a little flat and never really captivating me as it plays out.
Then there is the comedy and this is where "Then She Found Me" has it's moments as it features some wonderful characters which are quite funny. Frank the very British divorcee brings a few laughs with his neurosis over being left heart broken again as does April's real mum Bernice the full of her self chat show host. But in scenes where there are deliberate attempts to raise laughs a lot of them fall flat because they feel out of place and break the flow of what is going on. There lies another problem, as although "Then She Found Me" is very evenly paced it's a shame it's more of an amble rather than stroll making it feel slightly dragged out which is surprising seeing it's only 98 minutes long.
Credit where credit is due, Helen Hunt who not only helped write the screenplay of Elinor Lipman's novel, but also directed as well as starred did a reasonable job as this was her first time behind the cameras on a movie. I can see what Hunt was trying to achieve with "Then She Found Me", a more intelligent chick flick which refrains from being over predictable and for the most she achieves this but it is that lack of focus on being one thing or another makes it feel at times a little lifeless. Despite this her performance as the vulnerable April is good and although I felt the storyline didn't lay way to the needed tension it was still believable and most significantly it never felt like a movie just about Helen, which is often a criticism of mine when an actor also has their hands in the writing plus direction.
Accompanying Hunt is the wonderful Bette Midler who manages to inject the movie with some wit as Bernice, the chat show host. It's a great character and Midler does a grand job of playing both the fake TV personality who fires questions off at her daughter and offers advice as if she was on her chat show but then changes as the mother daughter relationship grows. Alongside Midler you have Colin Firth who although is funny as the divorcee Frank, a role with similarities to that of Colin in "Hope Springs", I did become rather annoyed with his oh so British ness by the time the movie ended and although Firth has made a career from being the British gentleman was more a parody of himself than a real character. Finally there is Broderick as Ben who in many ways plays the man child, the grown up who just hasn't really grown up but because he is never given the screen time never makes a big enough impact.
What this all boils down to is that "Then She Found Me" is a nice movie which has its moments and thankfully although at times is a little obvious is not entirely predictable. But because it floats between being a drama, romance and comedy whilst never committing to be one or the other it often feels a little lifeless with moments which seem to fall into a lull where you can struggle to keep focussed. What it definitely isn't, is your typical chick-flick and although it will appeal to a mainly female audience has more intelligence to the storyline than most.