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Overall Rating

Awesome: 14.42%
Worth A Look: 27.88%
Average: 10.58%
Pretty Bad32.69%
Total Crap: 14.42%

7 reviews, 62 user ratings

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Where the Heart Is (2000)
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by Greg Muskewitz

"The quirky humor saves it from the clichés."
4 stars

Love can make us all do some crazy things. It can also make us do some ridiculously stupid things. As Diana Ross and the Supremes sang, "You can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait…just give it time, no matter how long it takes." It’s a rule you must abide by. Sometimes, like Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman), you spend too much time looking in the wrong place.

Novalee is pregnant trailer trash with an equally greasy boyfriend. They set out to leave their southern town to make it together. But he abandons her (for an under-aged girl –but he gets busted for it) at a Wal-Mart. With no place to go, at night she hides away and sleeps in a camp-tent display and carefully keeps track of anything she uses. By day, she’s out reading books and keeping busy. One night, she goes into labor and is saved by Forney (James Frain) who delivers the baby and gets her to a hospital.

Instantly, Novalee is all over the news and her daughter, Americus, is dubbed the Wal-Mart Baby. They’re taken in by an eccentric couple (the wife is Stockard Channing) as Novalee’s friendship with a nurse, Lexie (Ashley Judd) grows. Lots of tragedy ensues along the way; Novalee believes in superstition, and the number five brings her horrible luck; her mother (Sally Field), who long ago left, shows up and takes off with Novalee’s money; the baby is kidnapped, et al. This is a theme which happens to repeat itself several times over the course of the movie.

"Where the Heart Is" (not to be mistaken with "Where the Money Is," although I’m sure there’s more symbolic similarities between the two that we’d care to admit), is a major chick flick, or to be more exact, for the most part, an anti-guy flick. Taken from one of those soapy/sappy novels, it’s a strange piece of work. First of all, the movie takes place over five years, and more often than not, until the time jump has been confirmed verbally, you can’t tell that there was a succession of time. The beginning is rushed and developments seem superficial; to add to the long running time (which felt longer because of the time jumps), it also felt like big narrative chunks were missing. There was too much summarizing of events, and on top of that, simply too many events to jam pack into a two-hour movie. A better title might have been "Novalee versus the World," because from beginning to end, she was faced with a preposterous amount of disasters –heck, we even get a scene right out of "Twister!"

There were plenty of such clichés, but an equal amount of quirky humor –which serves as its savior. An example of that would be Lexie, who has an arm load of kids (all named after snack foods: Brownie, Cookie, Cup Cake, etc.), but no husband. Each time she gets with a guy (even if he claims to shoot "blanks") she ends up pregnant. "Where the Heart Is" is for the most part, but not completely, against guys. They’re dirty scumbags, bastards and baby-makers. Novalee learns quickly after she’s dumped by another guy for a sexual encounter (this is post-baby) that she needs to watch out for herself.

There’s a silly subplot where, once Novalee’s ex gets out of jail, he goes on to pursue a singing career. But the subplot is inept and a waste of time. Just an additional tack-on to the running time.

A lot of the story was glossed over and played out for the effectiveness of (or catering to) the audience. Yet that’s what brought it the breezy, happy-go-lucky charm. The acting of the three major leads: Portman, Judd and Frain, were all very nicely captured. Judd, always with a penchant for her affability, continues the trend here (though I can’t completely forgive her for "Eye of the Beholder"). And Frain, the anti-stud, is equally acceptable, though maybe not as embraceable. Channing is genuine, and Joan Cusack has an amusing turn as a dyspeptic music contractor.

Alas, we’re left with Portman, giving and talented an actress as she be. It is so hard to accept her as this proposed "trailer trash," but even so, she cleans up so well. Portman’s deportment was cool, stealthy, and believable, and for as attractive as she is (including how cute she was while pregnant), it’s equally matched and backed up by talent. Despite the anti-guy message, one aspect I did appreciate was that the girls were capable of doing anything too. Novalee’s indomitability and strength not to acquiesce was strongly supported and needs to be seen. She outclasses this. Portman may give it her all, but overall, the project isn’t up to par with what she offers.

Final Verdict: B-.

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originally posted: 12/13/00 17:25:02
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User Comments

11/02/16 Suzanne five great female performances; scratch the ex-boyfriend 4 stars
10/08/07 Deirdre As manipulatively awful as it is extremely bizarre. 1 stars
12/16/06 Treecie Novalie rise above attitude & Forney's firm love kept me thinking after the end of the movi 4 stars
5/07/06 Erica Clarkson What about Tennessee residents, Tiffany? It's set in Oklahoma! 2 stars
12/20/05 cody a very good movie with good story and good actors, sexy natalie portman 4 stars
7/14/05 emily I LOVED this movie...definitely in my top 5. 5 stars
3/28/05 Emma A lovely film. One of my favourites. 5 stars
3/18/05 Tiffany Anderson great movie, although it depects tennessee residents as white trash 4 stars
7/24/04 Toni Any young mother trying to find her way can relate to this movie 5 stars
7/14/04 Jenna Furr Usually abominable A. Judd good here. Natalie P. wasted. Movie on whole is harpy feces. 1 stars
6/05/04 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne A. Judd plays more likeable char. than Sally Field or Joan Cusack. Armageddon must be near! 2 stars
6/05/04 Audrey Ruiz Ashley Judd's best movie since AMAZON WOMAN FROM URANUS. 1 stars
5/18/04 Richard This film was very educating for children over 12 but not for 2nd graders 1 stars
4/10/04 Teresa I think it is a great movie, explaning how anything could happen. 4 stars
3/26/04 Stephanie I really like the movie i eally enjoyed it! 5 stars
3/05/04 Absolute feel good? Poppycock!! Only someone bout as bad as Osama bin Ladin makes me feel good to see his legs get cut off! 2 stars
2/04/04 Aroha It is a lovely movie! An absolute feel good!!! 5 stars
10/07/03 Marie Persson I just love this movie. 5 stars
7/18/03 Chris O.K. so this isn't oscar material but by itself it's entertaing. Corny but heart-warming. 4 stars
5/30/03 Jenna Furr Usually abominable A. Judd good here. Natalie P. wasted. Movie on whole is harpy feces. 1 stars
2/03/03 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne A. Judd plays more likeable char. than Sally Field or Joan Cusack. Armageddon must be near! 2 stars
1/12/03 Iris Dementia Praecox Yeah Sure, Andrew. If I don't listen to the rednecks, so much for playing this movie! 1 stars
12/10/02 Audrey Ruiz Ashely Judd's best movie since AMAZON WOMAN FROM URANUS. 1 stars
12/03/02 jksfsdkl UG! Natalie Portman is the most overrated actress of the past few years. CRAP! 1 stars
11/28/02 Kelli Strange, but funny 4 stars
10/15/02 amy i liked it 4 stars
10/02/02 Andrew Don't listen to the to the red necks, let yourself be taken on a beautiful ride. 5 stars
9/04/02 The Chronic Mastubator Sappy and dumb. 2 stars
6/27/02 Bada Bing Crosby Ceaselessly stupid and improbable, but Joan Cusack is great in small role 2 stars
6/05/02 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne A. Judd plays more likeable char. than Sally Field or Joan Cusack. Armageddon must be near! 2 stars
3/31/02 Kacy I loved this movie. It is absolutely one of my favorites...ever! 5 stars
3/26/02 the_newindividual Great movie! 5 stars
3/16/02 Jenny Tullwartz (Joan Cusack fan in mourning) I'd rather eat my sh____(oe??) than watch what Jonn Cusack's reduced to in this. 1 stars
1/27/02 Tiffany Thunderhurst "Ballbuster" plays all sweetness and light. Is there acatch? You bet there is! 2 stars
1/14/02 Flick Chick this is one chick flick the flick chick actually liked - a bit long though. 4 stars
1/04/02 Chelsy Kenyon I liked the movie, I had to do a long paper over it. 4 stars
11/26/01 Smoogles Total chick flick ... Portman was great 5 stars
11/12/01 Jon C. Ericson Natalie only thing making this worth a look. 4 stars
9/30/01 Mohammad J. worst movie out there next to 2001 and A.I. 1 stars
9/18/01 Butterbean Glamorous trailer trash and 2hr references to Walmart can be overlooked in this good flick 4 stars
8/24/01 eka saputra i'm only like natalie 4 stars
8/03/01 brian ferrell I really wanted my own web site 5 stars
6/23/01 Mr. X I enjoyed i thoroughly. I almost cried 4 stars
4/29/01 The Jedi Droid Cute..Natelie is good & Stockard Channing & Joan Cusack are great supporting charcters 4 stars
4/16/01 LiL This was fantatic! One of the best movies I've ever seen with great actors 5 stars
4/12/01 Troy A decent moment or two do not a movie make; Cusack was much appreciated, however briefly 3 stars
3/01/01 Robert no 1 stars
2/15/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Read the book!!! Read the book!!! Read the book!!! Read the book!!! 3 stars
2/02/01 Bob Barker How many talented actors does this movie have? And it's still stupid!!!! 1 stars
8/21/00 movie chick not much interesting here 3 stars
7/31/00 Ang I thought it was a great movie 5 stars
5/27/00 Jaime N. Christley The book is available at your local Wal-Mart. Avoid it, too. 1 stars
5/19/00 jim boyd good film well acted enjoyable 5 stars
5/13/00 Americus Ashley Judd is my reason for being. & Natalie Portman scores her first good performance 5 stars
5/11/00 Kyle Broflovski "Life's a bitch & then you give birth in Wal-Mart." Whoopy. 3 stars
5/08/00 Mary Ann Surprised the boom mike didn't get star billing and it's own trailer 2 stars
5/05/00 Jessica I've read the book, and i've seen the movie. Both were great! But read the book first. 4 stars
5/01/00 MrShowbiz Portman gives birth in a Wal-Mart... and this 4 alarm hankiefest is all downhil from there. 1 stars
5/01/00 Rose Reuben It's like American Beauty, shows that everyone fucks up. It's about being optimistic. Nice. 4 stars
4/30/00 "Persnickety" this one got real old real quick,,,totally predictable! 2 stars
4/30/00 Malbert Acting was good...story was kind of dumb 3 stars
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  28-Apr-2000 (PG-13)


  31-Aug-2000 (M)

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