Screenwriter Don Roos broke into the ranks of hyphenates with
1998's acclaimed comedy-drama THE OPPOSITE OF SEX, a well-written
look at a teen nymphet who wreaks havoc on the lives of those around her.
For his follow-up BOUNCE, Roos turned to a script in his trunk about a
couple brought together by an odd set of circumstances. Although it
bears some similarity to 1993's FEARLESS and 1999's misguided
RANDOM HEARTS in that a key plot point is people brought together
in the aftermath of a plane crash, BOUNCE attempts to refashion the
story into an unlikely romance and a vehicle for two of contemporary
cinema's engaging and charismatic performers, Academy Award winners
Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck.
Affleck portrays Buddy Amarall, a slick advertising executive and
self-professed "born salesman". During a Christmastime business trip
to Chicago, he gets snowed in at O'Hare Airport and passes the time
at the bar, hitting on an attractive businesswoman (an underused
Natasha Henstridge) and chatting with a married writer (Tony Goldwyn)
who has suffered the ignominy of having his play panned by the local
critics. The playwright wants to get home to help his son Christmas
trees while ladies' man Buddy sees an opportunity to add another
notch on his belt. Having worked on the advertising account for the
airline, he can fly for free anytime, so on the spur of the moment,
he hands his boarding pass to the writer. When the plane later
crashes, Buddy's life begins to unravel. His advertising company
undertakes spin control and comes up with an award-winning campaign
that ostensibly demonstrates the company's concern for the victims
of the disaster.
For his part, Buddy is thrown by the event. Realizing that but for
a twist of fate he would have been killed, he begins to drink heavily
until an embarrassing public display lands him in rehab.
Determined to set his life right and to fulfill the Alcoholics
Anonymous' tenet of making amends to people harmed, Buddy sets
out to locate the writer's widow Abby (Paltrow). Although he uses
subterfuge in his dealings with her, he is intrigued and attracted to her.
Gradually they fall in love, overcoming the objections of her oldest son
(Alex D Linz) but because there's a big secret hanging over them, the
question of whether their relationship will survive hangs in the balance.
In a departure from the tough but sensitive action heroes he
has favored, Affleck turns in a nicely rendered portrait of a guy who
is used to coasting through life based on charm and glibness. He
doesn't overdo the descent into alcoholism and he carries of the
emotional scenes quite well. Since he and Paltrow were at one time
romantically involved, their scenes together carry extra weight but they
do share a nice chemistry. For her part, Paltrow effortlessly plays a
blue-collar wife and mother struggling to keep her family together.
Despite her patrician features and bearing, she crafts a believable portrait
of a confused woman torn between her desire to honor her deceased
husband but wanting to move on with her life – bouncing back after
tragedy. One cannot fault the leading actors or such fine character
players as Joe Morton (as Affleck's boss), Jennifer Grey (as a caustic
airline employee with more than a passing interest in Buddy) or David
Paymer in an unbilled cameo as a lawyer. Two players stand out,
however: Caroline Aaron as Abby's friend and neighbor who offers
support and wise council and Johnny Galecki as Buddy's tart-tongued,
gay assistant. Both performers have precious little screen time but
each makes the most of their limited exposure.
The primary faults with BOUNCE lie in Roos' script and with his
at times lackluster direction. In the early scenes, the pacing seems
a bit off and the film drags in spots in order to cover the exposition.
As a director, Roos makes some visually interesting choices in terms
of camera placement and in his use of color, but there's an edge and
liveliness lacking in BOUNCE that was present in his first effort.
While there are strong performances, the movie's flaws rob it of its
bounce (as it were). What could have been possibly a great film
has to settle for being merely a good one.
|© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.