Driver in the Hunt for Duchovny's Heart
"Return to Me", Bonnie Hunt's directional debut which pairs up David Duchovny and Minnie Driver, is very much an old fashioned romantic comedy which is proud of its over sentimental nature and delivers a warmth that many modern love stories fail to achieve. The fact "Return to Me" takes its title from the glorious song often performed by Dean Martin just adds to the movies old fashioned charm and sense of romance.
After the tragic loss of his wife Elizabeth (Joely Richardson - 101 Dalmations), Bob Rueland (David Duchovny - The X Files) agrees to donate her heart to a needy recipient who is in urgent need of a heart transplant. A year later Bob meets Grace (Minnie Driver - Good Will Hunting) at the Irish-Italian restaurant run by her beloved grandfather and it is love at first sight. Romance blossoms until Grace discovers that she was the lucky recipient of Elizabeth's heart and wonders whether Bob should know the truth.
The strange thing about "Return to Me" is that the storyline is not really the reason why it is so charming. I honestly believe that the premise could have been pretty much about anything and it would still have had a certain charm about it. The reason why "Return to Me" is so charming is two fold, firstly is the partnership of David Duchovny and Minnie Driver who are convincing as a couple in love. Like many of those classic romantic comedies everything about their performances both singly and together are completely natural and create an ease between you and their characters.
The second reason why "Return to Me" has a charm that many movies lack is that the supporting characters are as pivotal to the movie as is the romance between Bob and Grace. A lot of the movie takes place at O'Reilly's Irish-Italian restaurant which is run by Grace's grandfather played by Carroll O'Connor and his Italian chef played by Robert Loggia. These two spend the majority of the movie bickering along with their friends debating who was the best boxer, baseball player or singer was whilst they play poker in the back room. But the joy is it is all very stereotypical and cliché but works perfectly as background to the main story and with Marianne Muellerleile doing a nice turn as Sophie the waitress it's a wonderful setting.
Also running along side this is the Simpson-esque home life of Grace's best friends Megan and Joe Dayton played by director Bonnie Hunt and James Belushi. I say Simpson-esque as it is again a stereotypical approach to a middle classed American family but it works and again you feel attached to the characters rather than at odds.
Although "Return to Me" has many memorable scenes especially revolving around O'Reilly's Irish-Italian restaurant the best scene comes towards the end of the movie when Duchovny's character comes riding in on a bike with a nun on the front. It is such a classic scene which harks back to those classic romantic comedies from the golden age, simple but beautiful.
As already mentioned the chemistry between David Duchovny and Minnie Driver is very evident but their performances are equally as good. Having made his mark as Fox Mulder in X-files it is quite surprising that not once did it feel like I was watching his famous character in a romantic comedy. Duchovny is actually not a bad leading man in the same style as John Cusack and from those early scenes of despair when he loses his wife to those when he falls in love with Grace he does a pretty decent job. Alongside Duchovny, Minnie Driver also does a surprisingly decent job when it comes to her performance and she delivers some lovely tender moments in amongst the humour.
What this all boils down to is that "Return to Me" is a good old fashioned love story which relies on the innocence of love, rather than sexual undertones or cheap gags. It certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for me "Return to Me" is a gem as it shows that modern movies can be entertaining without relying on gimmicks to drive them forwards.