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20th Century Fox presents
"You tell them that our lives can change with every breath we take... and to hold on like hell to what they've got: each other, and a mother who would die for them and almost did...You tell them we've all got bad in us, but we've got goodness too. And the only thing worth living for is the good. And that's why we've got to make sure we pass it on."
DVD ReviewWatching Where The Heart Is is a lot like playing a game of Mad Lib's. The plot line is there; you just have to figure out what tragedy happens when and how to brighten things up by throwing in a few happy moments here and there. But even with a screenplay that is all over the map this film works, due in large part to the performances of Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd.
Novalee Nation (Portman) is a seven-month pregnant teenager on the road from Tennessee to California with her boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens. When they stop at a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma so Novalee can take a bathroom break and buy some slippers, Willy Jack sees his chance to get away, leaving Novalee with absolutely nothing. Novalee, soon starts a new life in the community of Sequoyah, making friends with the good-natured Sister Husband (Channing) and spending time at the library, where she meets the librarian, Forney (Frain). Looking for a place to sleep, she hides out in Wal-Mart, where she soon feels at home, using the stores inventory to get by. Then she goes into labor, and, with the help of Forney, she gives birth to a healthy baby girl. When she wakes up she learns that she has become a celebrity and is befriended by her nurse, Lexie (Judd).
Where The Heart Is isn't shy of the fact that it is a "grade A" chick flick. In fact, the film revels in it. The film features two strong and independent female leads that deal with rotten men and rotten luck. It is to the credit of writers Lowell Gantz and Babaloo Mandel (working from a source material by Billie Letts), that the film never focuses too much attention on the problems in their lives. The biggest problem with their script, however, is that we are shown a completely useless side plot involving Novalee's slime of an ex boyfriend and his aspirations to become a country music star.
First time director Matt Williams does take a few missteps throughout the film, but for the most part this is a competent debut. Aside from the previously mentioned side plot, Williams never really ties the film together during the jumps in story. In one scene Novalee's young daughter Americus is seen as a toddler yet in the next she is nearly 5 years old. Showing a montage or even a slight voice over would have been nice to keep the story tidier.
With roles in previous films like The Professional, Beautiful Girls, Everyone Says I Love You, and The Phantom Menace Natalie Portman has proven herself a gifted actress. But it is with her role as Novalee that she really shines. Portman handles the many emotional changes of Novalee perfectly, and the result is the best performance of her already long career. Ashley Judd does a nice job as Lexie, showcasing in spots her own talent. James Frain (Reindeer Games) is good as Forney, and supporting parts by Stockard Channing, an unrecognizable Sally Field, and Joan Cusack are each done well.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B
Image Transfer Review: There isn't a lot to complain about with this 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer from Fox. Colors are spot on and the many scenes at night are done well, and with very little grain. Moments of slight softness and a bit of dirt on the print are noticeable, but luckily they are not always evident. Detail and sharpness are very good. A good effort from the folks at Fox.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: Essentially a front heavy mix, the 5.1 Dolby Digital mix does come alive a few times in the film: rain pours in the rear speakers, and the appearance of a tornado halfway through the film provides good bass and a provide a nice example of separation in the rear speakers. Dialogue is always clear. The heavy use of country music shows up well in the left and right speakers. A Dolby 2.0 track is also provided.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 0 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
Layers Switch: Unknown
Extras Grade: C
Final CommentsWhere The Heart Is is one of the better "chick flicks" of the past year. The performances by Portman and Judd make the movie all the better and the great transfer makes this disc hard to resist. If you are like me you have been avoiding this movie, but it is worth seeking out. Recommended.
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