Helen Hunt's directing debut, an adaptation of Elinor Lipman's novel, is neither particularly flashy or innovative. It is, however, filled with just what the Academy Award-winning actress, who also stars, knows a good deal about: good acting. It only took a few days to turn the life of 39-year-old New York City elementary schoolteacher April Epner (Hunt)...read more
Helen Hunt's directing debut, an adaptation of Elinor Lipman's novel, is neither particularly flashy or innovative. It is, however, filled with just what the Academy Award-winning actress, who also stars, knows a good deal about: good acting.
It only took a few days to turn the life of 39-year-old New York City elementary schoolteacher April Epner (Hunt) inside out. After many frustrating months of trying to conceive a child -- April was adopted as a baby and resists becoming an adoptive mother herself -- her short marriage to fellow teacher Ben Green (Matthew Broderick) ends when he sheepishly announces that he thinks he made a mistake in saying "I do:" The life they're living isn't the one he wants. The day after Ben moves out, April meets Frank (Colin Firth), the recently divorced and still hurting father of one of April's students, who comes on to her a desperate, rebound sort of way. Soon after, the hospital calls April with the news that her mother, Trudy (Lynn Cohen), has died after suffering what seemed like a minor "episode." Within days of the funeral, April is approached by a stranger (John Benjamin Hickey) in the halls of her school with a note from someone very much interested in meeting her: April's birth mother. Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) blows into April's life like a hurricane, meeting her ata restaurant and showering her with kisses and questions while offering only vague details about her decision to give April up. Bernice mentions something about coming from a very conservative Jewish family, getting knocked up after a one-night stand and having no choice but to surrender April up for adoption three days after her birth or be disowned. The good news is that her birth father was none other than Steve McQueen, whom Bernice met while working the makeup counter at Bonwit Teller. April has no idea who this woman really is, but other restaurant patrons recognize her as the host of a local morning talk show who manages to nab fairly high profile guests like Tim Robbins and Janeane Garofalo. April is extremely suspicious of Bernice's story and motives. She's also susceptible, having just lost both her mother and husband, desperate for a baby and in the early, tentative stages of a relationship with Frank, a man with jealousy issues and two children. But the more April gets to know Bernice more she realizes that not everything she’s telling April is the truth. Perhaps none of it is.
Alice Arlen (SILKWOOD) and Victor Levin's (WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON!) script lacks the melodramatics of BEACHES and histrionics of THE ROSE, but Hunt manages to keep Midler well in line; suffice to say that it's good she's playing a larger-than-life, minor New York City celebrity. This is, however, Hunt's show, and she delivers a strong performance that captures all the seriousness and absurdity of the avalanche of circumstances that comes crashing down on April's head. To say she's only half the director she is an actress is actually paying her quite a complement.
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