Where the Heart Is
17 year old Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) is pregnant and leaving Tennessee for California with boyfriend Willy Jack (Dylan Bruno) in a beat-up Plymouth. Toilet-stopping en route in Oklahoma Novalee emerges from a Wal-Mart to find herself abandoned. She holes up in the Wal-Mart, gets discovered just as she gives birth, is a celebrity for a day and then has to survive in a strange town. But she finds friends - there`s Sister Husband (Stockard Channing) who becomes a surrogate mother, and she finds a sister in Lexie (Ashley Judd) who keeps on having children but losing the men who gave them to her. And then there`s Forney (James Frain) a strange young man who runs the library....This is a cutesy, home-spun story about the family you find when you don`t have a family adapted from Billie Letts` novel by screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. It`s distinguished by Natalie Portman`s performance, she really does bring something special to just about everything she does and even Ashley Judd and Stockard Channing add a certain dignity to what could have been truly hokey roles. British actor James Frain just seems a rather strange choice for Forney whose character does an abrupt swing mid-film. Director Matt Williams admits that there`s a common thread to everything he`s created and that`s a celebration of the American family. If that`s your bag this is your film.David`s Comments: Maudlin and tremendously protracted story which clearly shows its basis in a novel. Much attention if paid to relatively unimportant elements of the plot, and much it it fails to convince (didn`t the supermarket have an alarm system?) The casting of James Frain doesn`t really work, and, though Natalie Portman is sweet, she`s not entirely convincing either.
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