Bounce (2000)

             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.

                                      Rating:        C
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.