Where the Heart Is Movie Review

Long ago, films were constructed of strong dialogue, original characters, memorable plot points, and solid acting. One of the best examples that Hollywood now completely ignore these qualities is found in the new film Where the Heart Is.

This opus about the power of love and the redemption of family follows the tragic, and I mean tragic, life of Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman). Hitting the road with her hick, guitar-playing boyfriend in a rusted-out GM, Novalee dreams of the blue skies of Bakersfield and sipping chocolate milk beneath a plastic umbrella with her unborn baby, due in a month.

Stopping off at a nearby Wal-Mart for a quick rest, Novalee's boyfriend decides to take off and leaves her there. Novalee then decides to secretly hole up in the Wal-Mart (because she's not the brightest bulb in the stagelights). A wacky librarian (Keith David) comes to her rescue when she goes into labor one night while she is camped in the outdoors section of the store. Then the she moves in with a family, befriends everyone in town -- including Ashley Judd's character (who has FIVE kids and still can work part-time as a nurse) -- fights off religious freaks, survives a tornado, breaks the heart of the wacky librarian that saved her, receives an inheritance, builds a Martha Stewart-esque house, becomes an award-winning photographer, and manages to always look like she stepped out of a Cosmo shoot, all while not once doing anything with her kid.

This film is terrible. The directing is awful: It seems director Matt Williams had an index card with six angles written on it and used every one of them, over and over and over again. We get pathetic and ugly acting by Natalie Portman, who can do good work. A disjointed pacing of key scenes and a time structure so confusing that it would throw Steve Prefontaine off. A subplot that actually validates the actions of the boyfriend who abandoned Novalee in the Wal-Mart parking lot. An embarrassing display of emotions by the characters, making the audience ill. Taking two great comedic screenwriters, Babaloo Mandel and Lowell Ganz, and forcing them to write drama on par with Oprah's Book Club. Altogether, it has the feeling of being trapped at home, watching a very bad television mini-series and wishing it to end, only the remote is broken.

However, the main problem with the film is that it never answers the most poignant question brought up: Where is the heart? No one ever seems to find it in this piece of junk.

Forced to watch her own movie.


Where the Heart Is Rating

" Unbearable "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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