Bette gets maternal

Posted on 08 May 2008 at 6:17pm
By Steven Warren – Contributing Film Critic

Helen Hunt is no find as a director

MOTHER — MAY I? April (Hunt, right) is contacted by her apparent birth mother (Midler).



In a dramedy, the mood is meant to be messy, like life. Helen Hunt’s feature directorial debut, "Then She Found Me," is messy, not just the mood swings but everything from Hunt’s hair to script details.

A lot changes in April Epner’s (Hunt) 40th year. Her husband Benjamin (Matthew Broderick) leaves while she’s obsessively trying to have a baby, and her adoptive mother passes away; but candidates arise to replace them.

Meeting Frank (Colin Firth), the recently abandoned father of one of April’s students, sparks a double-rebound affair. Local TV personality Bernice Graves (Bette Midler) claims to be April’s birth mother. April gets pregnant, and Benjamin wants to come back into her life — maybe not all the way.

Poor Bette Midler has to be manic-depressive, bouncing between her sincere, overwhelmingly maternal "Stella" mode and funny moments when her old campy self shines through. The excerpts we see of Bernice’s TV show often deal with queer topics, from Janeane Garofalo discussing her "favorite gay" at Pride to an interview about marriage with two gay and lesbian couples. And Bernice makes some pro-gay remarks in other scenes, as if Bette’s reaching out to her fan base in the midst of this heterosexual story.

Hunt has lighter moments too but is more often overly intense. Another director would have told her when to bring it down a notch. Only David Mansfield’s music matches her intensity and there’s too much of it, too loud.

Hunt doesn’t show much promise as a director, especially while playing the lead at the same time. She favors old-fashioned camera work, a lot of long, static shots with a minimum of closeups. It doesn’t bode well for when the film reaches video, where it will have its widest audience on its narrowest screens.

Adapted by Hunt and two others from Elinor Lipman’s novel of the same name, "Then She Found Me" has many enjoyable moments, enough to offset the flat ones and a few painfully bad ones. So much of the content is aimed at gays and Jews, you’d think it was meant to be a Broadway show, one produced by the Lifetime Channel.

— Steve Warren

Grade: C+
Opens May 9.


LESBIAN GOSSIP GIRL ROCKS!

DO IT LIKE THIS: Ditto, right, teaches the gals how to rock.



Established in Portland, Oregon in 2000, The Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls was is a five-day summer camp where impressionable young females can express their angst and joys through the redemptive power of punk rock.

Girls Rock! is a documentary that shows them learning to play an instrument, write songs, put a band together and performing. And how through conquering these tasks, girls assert themselves, find their individual voices and learn to get along with peers.

Lesbian rock goddess Beth Ditto of The Gossip becomes a sympathetic camp counselor. She teaches the little ladies that sweating is great and screaming is awesome.

Opens May 9 at the Angelika Dallas.



This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 9, 2008.

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