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Overall Rating

Awesome: 8.33%
Worth A Look: 29.17%
Average: 22.22%
Pretty Bad38.89%
Total Crap: 1.39%

8 reviews, 24 user ratings

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Hearts in Atlantis
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Do not disturb"
2 stars

Hearts in Atlantis is a gentle coming-of-age story about the last summer of an American boy’s childhood.

A mysterious stranger, Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins), takes up residence in the upstairs flat on Bobby Garfield’s (Anton Yelchin) eleventh birthday. Brautigan asks Bobby to be on the lookout for “low men” - who dress in nondescript suits, post coded notices about lost pets and drive fancy cars.

I can’t say much more without giving away what little there is to this movie. Bobby hangs out with his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully (Will Rothhaar), saves up for a bicycle, earns money from Mr Brautigan, experiences his first kiss, is betrayed by his selfish mother (Hope Davis) and finds a father figure (his own father died five years earlier).

William Goldman has adapted the first, and longest, of the five loosely connected stories in Stephen King’s Hearts in Atlantis. The story is the only one without a direct connection to the Vietnam War. Instead, it attempts to recapture the innocent era at the dawn of the 1960s that the war later drew to a close.

Goldman successfully tightens the structure and makes explicit the story’s theme about bullies. Three older kids threaten Bobby and Carol; Mrs Garfield’s real estate agent employer assaults her; and Brautigan is tracked by the “low men”. The title really comes from King’s second story (about an addictive card game - “hearts” - sweeping a college campus), so Goldman adds a brief rationale. According to Brautigan, childhood (when young hearts are yet to be broken) is a time as magical as the lost city of Atlantis.

Unfortunately, Goldman’s chosen to bookend the movie with modern scenes, tracing Bobby’s homecoming for a funeral. This device is overworn and smacks of phoniness. The worst scene comes at the end when we must endure the adult Bobby meeting Carol’s daughter. The way the film is photographed, scored and directed, Bobby’s recollections don’t feel truthful or complete. I think the film would have worked better as a straightforward tale at the time it was set; the flashback structure serves little purpose beyond padding the running time.

Cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski (who died during production; there were uncredited contributions from Allen Daviau and Emmanuel Lubezki) gives the film a nostalgic glow, and Mychael Danna’s tinkly score supports the mood. Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars) directs reverentially, as if he was shooting in a china shop (it’s a film for people who stopped going to the movies because they worried the excitement would bring on a heart attack). And he douses everything with period pop tunes (from the likes of The Platters and Percy Faith).

I wasn’t especially enamoured of King’s story to begin with - its most memorable aspect was the brutality of some of the bullying (which Hicks thankfully removes or cuts away from). This was an era where the school bullies carried baseball bats to bash young girls without provocation (and Bobby’s reminiscing about this?). Hicks hasn’t added any particularly strong or memorable images. The “low men” - and their sinister wanted ads, dressed up as lost pet notices - aren’t nearly as omnipresent or creepy as they should be. The revelation of who they are comes too early, and reduces to banality their appearance at the climax.

The performances are neither jarring nor engaging. Hearts in Atlantis is a short story padded to feature length. The story is thin and presented in such an unassuming manner that it’s almost inconsequential. This film experience is so mild that I was restless long before the end, and leapt from my seat as soon as the closing credits began to roll.

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originally posted: 12/14/01 11:32:44
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User Comments

7/21/09 scott lee I liked it a lot! 4 stars
11/26/08 Shaun Wallner Friiggin Awesome!! 5 stars
11/17/06 Alyssa Hale Very disappointing movie, not at all good. 2 stars
6/22/06 TB I wish I learn more about the mysterious man, but the story was about a boy 3 stars
12/23/04 Nick Boyd Very heartfelt coming-of-age story 5 stars
4/16/04 A Reader Makes mincemeat of the King book, but is surprisingly heartfelt, and may haunt you later. 4 stars
4/13/04 Chris I was really looking foward to it but it was very dissapointing. Shoulda been better. 2 stars
9/14/03 agustina magic land full of dreams 5 stars
9/13/03 Phil M. Aficionado Nothing special except excellent action and photography. 3 stars
1/11/03 Mitsaso Conventional-but still good. 4 stars
1/08/03 tina crap 1 stars
10/08/02 Rusty The book was great, the movie writer needs to be shot for butchering the book like this!!!! 2 stars
10/23/01 spaceworm Get it right: Olivier was the old Anthony Hopkins. 4 stars
10/14/01 E-Funk The book is a step above this effort, but the effort is respectable. Hopkins is great. 4 stars
10/05/01 Jennifer Hassell I thought it was rather slow-moving, but excellent acting and photography!!! 4 stars
10/03/01 toneely I liked the movie, but Erik the movieman is correct.that's why I am reading the book. 4 stars
10/02/01 travis one of the best films in a long time best picture nomanation 5 stars
10/02/01 Greyjack Erik pretty much nailed it. What was there was nice, but it just felt very incomplete. 3 stars
10/01/01 Suzz A bit of a different take on the coming-of-age theme. Ok for 2 hours of escapism. 4 stars
9/30/01 erik the movieman Ah Yes - The Intelligent Moviegoer and his Comments! Bravo! Go See Glitter - You'll Love It 3 stars
9/29/01 Anders Caught a sneak preview - decent, like a "Stand By Me" on mild hallucinogens. 4 stars
9/28/01 DON'T LISTEN TO THIS MORON "Erik the Movieman" IS A MORON@!! 5 stars
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  28-Sep-2001 (PG-13)



Directed by
  Scott Hicks

Written by
  William Goldman

  Anthony Hopkins
  Anton Yelchin
  Hope Davis
  David Morse
  Mika Boorem
  Will Rothhaar

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