Forces Of Nature Movie Review

I just can't figure out what I think about "Forcesof Nature."

The most stylistically creative romantic comedy in recentmemory, at times it's downright experimental with, for instance, two computer-enhancedstorm scenes in which raindrops fall in slow motion while everything elseruns at normal speed.

The film has a distinctive look, with bold photography,unblushing close-ups and a potent, tropical color palette. And Sandra Bullockgives the best performance of her career as an droll, carpe diemkind of girl, living life by the seat of her pants as a way of denyingher damaged-goods background of hard knocks that she can't seem to shake.

Plus, it's funny. Bullock and co-star Ben Affleck havegood comedic rhythm.

On the other hand, the core of the story -- a road tripwith two strangers who fall in love -- is hardly inventive, and Affleckis a downright dullard until late in the movie when he discovers his innerimpetuousness.

The catalyst for the mismatched pair's travels is an airlinenear-disaster. They're seat mates on a plane that has an ugly aborted takeoff,leaving already flight-phobic Affleck resolute about finding another wayto get to his wedding to Maura Tierney ("Newsradio") in Savannah,where a hurricane is baring down.

He and Bullock -- who had insulted him almost immediatelyby glancing over his should as he edited his wedding vows on his laptopand saying "Do you work for Hallmark?" -- split the cost of arental car with a conservative-looking fellow who turns out to be a serioushophead, leading to a traffic stop that lands them in jail.

In quick succession they find themselves on a train headingthe wrong way, then on a bus full of septuagenarian condo shoppers on theirway to Miami. Along the way they manage somehow to lose everything (luggage,wallets, etc.) but their wits, and spend one night horsing around and stockingup in a 24-hour Kmart.

Not bad so far, but for the first three reels, this perpetualmotion story has little energy, despite insistently sprightly camera workand soundtrack, and it's riddled with unoriginal ingredients, includingthe bride's disapproving parents and a successful (but dopey) ex to tempTierney.

Throughout the trip, the argumentative couple build sexualtension, and Affleck begins having doubts about his pending nuptials. Itdoesn't help that he finds himself accosted by a string of strangers withbad marriages offering unsolicited advice.

It doesn't help the movie that the plot is often predicatedon silly misunderstandings, ill-advised lies and bad decisions that makeit hard to empathize with the characters at times.

But throughout the picture, director Bronwen Hughes ("Harrietthe Spy") sustains an atmosphere of creativity with her startlingstyle. Then in the last act, "Forces of Nature" redeems itselfalmost completely by turning most of these cliches on their ears one byone, leading into something of a surprise ending.

I don't know if that forgives the use of such cliches,especially when the story isn't enough to distract one from asking questionslike "Why don't they take the Interstate?" and "Why hasn'tthis weather-whipped wedding been moved indoors?"

But even with such questions, and even though Affleck isn'texactly a ball of fire, he and Bullock manage to maintain a reluctant romanticcombustibility between them that keeps the movie alive until it reallycuts loose in the last 30 minutes.

Bullock is this movie's saving grace. She portrays complexitiesthat are rare in romantic comedy -- a disastrous marriage, guilt over abandoninga child some years before -- yet she gives "Forces of Nature"its odd, whimsical vivre. I wouldn't say it's worth seeing just for her,but after re-reading what I've written so far, I do think it's worth seeing,if only because its so refreshingly unusual in its mood and manner.

Comments

Forces Of Nature Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, Friday, March 19, 1999

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