Retro Review: Where the Heart Is

Natalie Portman tackles another deep rooted woman in second film since “The Phantom Menace”.

“Where the Heart Is” is a beautiful little drama that chronicles the life of a teenage mother who is abandoned in the heartland after she decides to go to California with her dead-beat boyfriend.

What made this bittersweet story so beautiful, compassionate and tender was the incredible talent of Natalie Portman. This young girl has the range and talent I haven’t seen in a long time.

Her range in emotion and devotion to her way of life reminds me a lot of Meryl Streep. You can feel, breathe and believe this girl in every action she partakes in. She is so gifted.

Another beautiful emergence I felt in this film was the way the story was mapped out. It was laid out like a great novel. Revealing each little piece as this young woman deals with her evolution into woman, mother and eventually photographer.

The mapping is reminiscent of “Fried Green Tomatoes” and “The Cider House Rules” where you could feel the novel’s presence and it kept the film on tract and delightfully paced.

When the viewer is treated to the scenes between Ashley Judd and Portman we really see an echoing of who these women are. It’s almost like Portman is looking at her future self. What seems to be lacking for both women is the trust of a man. They are strong and independent but they still want to be swept up and married.

This reflects the innocence and the beliefs still relevant in the heartland. A perfect quote I pulled from the film talks about this very subject: “Our lives change with every breath we take.” They believe that they are that kind of woman. Sure we all change with every breath we take but this for me mirrors the tone and resilience of these women.

As we uncover these characters, what amazed me was how intelligent they really are. They are deep, passionate and self aware. This is something to be treasured because we don’t often see this kind of fare. Above I mentioned the “Cider House Rules” and in that film we come very close to this self-realization.

Within the film, I believe that Homer chose not to have that kind of self-realization because if he actually realized what he was doing his life would have changed so much he would be lost.

Plenty of Hollywood fare never lets characters flesh out this much. And for me that’s what makes “Where the Heart Is” a breakthrough.

The film is written by veteran comedy team Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel who wrote a lot of the great comedy movies of the 80s. Some of their hits are “Parenthood” and “Splash”.

In recent years, they haven’t fared very well with mediocre hits like “Multiplicity”, “Father’s Day” and “Ed TV”.

But I have to say their script this time shocked and enchanted this critic.

(4.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer

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