‘Then She Found Me’: Hunt brings honesty to film directing debut

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Thursday, May 1, 2008 1:51pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Helen Hunt’s “Then She Found Me” garners affection by not trying too hard to be likable. Like its central character, this movie can be flinty and exasperating at times.

It’s based on a novel by Elinor Lipman, and was co-scripted and directed by Helen Hunt, who plays the lead role. Her character is April, a teacher who, although she was adopted herself, is dead set on being a biological mother. (So, in case you’re wondering, “Baby Mama” is not the last word in the current run of pregnancy movies.)

April is 39 and therefore hears a loud ticking, but the situation looks discouraging when she divorces her manchild husband (Matthew Broderick). Will artificial insemination be the answer? Will the nice parent (Colin Firth) whose kid attends April’s school be involved?

As if this weren’t enough plot, April is approached by a vaguely disturbing man who claims to have information on April’s birth mother. This woman turns out to be a local TV talk-show host, and she has a most amusing claim about April’s father.

The supposed mother is played by Bette Midler, in a role that has best supporting actress Oscar nomination written all over it. Midler is a welcome bit of brassiness in the otherwise understated picture, and she has a warmth and silliness that contrast nicely with Hunt’s brainier style of acting.

Hunt plays the movie at a very low-key level of humor, part of which is expressed with a generalized frustration with males and their shortcomings. Her boldest directing decision is to photograph herself in the most unflattering way imaginable, so April’s disappointments are etched in unmistakable ways on her face.

She understands that April is going to do the wrong thing at times. Unlike Laura Linney’s take on a somewhat similar character in “You Can Count on Me,” Hunt is a little too smart to convince us of some of April’s miscues. But she’s always been good at anger, which she gets to let fly here a few times.

The movie doesn’t exactly set off sparks, and some plot turns are extremely by-the-numbers. (On the other hand, I wasn’t expecting to see Salman Rushdie as April’s obstetrician.) Mostly “Then She Found Me” unfolds in a thoughtful way that acknowledges how people tend to be their own worst enemies. That’s unusual enough to distinguish it from the pack.

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