Monday, 20 April 2020

Movie Review: Hope Floats (1998)


A drama about the consequences of a shattered marriage and going back home, Hope Floats is a dreary descent into doldrums.

In New York City, Birdee (Sandra Bullock) is embarrassed on a trashy daytime television talk show when her supposed best friend Connie (an uncredited Rosanna Arquette) reveals she is having an affair with Birdee's husband Bill (Michael Paré). Birdee packs up her young daughter Bernice (Mae Whitman) and heads back to her tiny hometown of Smithville, Texas, to live with her mother Ramona (Gena Rowlands).

In her high school days Birdee was the local beauty queen. Now after a period of sulking she gets reacquainted with a town that has barely changed, and faces some backlash for her prior haughtiness. She meets wood craftsman Justin Matisse (Harry Connick Jr.) who has had a crush on her since school days, and he initiates a romantic pursuit. Meanwhile young Bernice encounters school bullying issues and hopes her father Bill will come back.

No amount of small town charm, flashes of humour and movie star glamour can save Hope Floats. In one of his few directing excursions, Forest Whitaker delivers a boring and overlong story of a woman coming to terms with the end of her marriage. The film runs out of things to say about 30 minutes in, and once handsome and available Harry Connick Jr. shows up, the ending is predetermined but the tortured Steven Rogers script has to trudge through plenty of nothingness to get there.

And so Whitaker gets busy with a mundane and ultimately pointless subplot about Bernice tangling with the school bully. Birdee plays hard-to-get with Justin to run down the clock when she is not taking turns shouting then hugging with Ramona and Bernice. Birdee's father, confined to a seniors' home and suffering from Alzheimer's disease, is another narrative dead-end.

Sandra Bullock tries hard to save the movie but to no avail, although Whitaker takes time to occasionally capture his star with the light hitting her perfectly ruffled hair just-so for the full glamour effect. Actually filmed in Smithville, the local charm quotient is lower than it should be.

Hope Floats is mopey bloat.






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