Poohbear. In ANYWHERE BUT HERE, high school student Ann August has to
endure her irritating mother, Adele, calling her "poohbear." It's bad
enough that her mother is so unreliable that their electricity keeps
getting turned off because her mother doesn't pay the bills. In a
classic love/hate relationship, Ann barely tolerates her eccentric
mother's mannerisms, but her mother is the only constant in her life.
In an endearing role as Ann, Natalie Portman (who, as Queen Amidala in
STAR WARS EPISODE 1, became this generation's Princess Leia) steals the
show. With lips that advance and recede like ocean surf and with eyes
that roll like ocean swells, she delivers a sweet and delicately nuanced
Much less satisfying is Susan Sarandon as Ann's irritating and
flamboyant mother. The chemistry between them is sometimes interesting
but never quite believable. Sarandon successfully makes her character
unlikable but has trouble making it credible.
Director Wayne Wang (THE JOY LUCK CLUB) has tonal problems from the
film's beginning. A hybrid that the press notes describe as a
"comedy-drama," the movie suffers from never being enough of either.
The tone is that of a drama, yet the memorable lines are those of a
comedy. The result is a drama that doesn't have much emotional impact
and a comedy that produces a few random smiles and almost no laughs.
The plot has the mother-daughter pair (Adele dumps her second husband
for the sin of boredom) leaving a backwater town in Wisconsin for the
flash of an LA lifestyle. The constantly insolvent Adele manages to
live in a string of unpaid apartments in Beverly Hills so that her
daughter can go to the best school in the country. (You know the ZIP
"This is like being kidnapped," Ann complains as they travel west to the
city where everyone wants to be an actor. "I wish somebody would have
kidnapped me when I was your age," her mother retorts. "So do I!" Ann
snaps back. Like an inmate, Ann yearns to escape the clutches of her
mother, whom she finds frequently embarrassing.
"It would be tragic to be wearing the wrong shoes when you meet the
right guy," Adele says after she finally meets a rich, eligible man who
asks her out. "I'm going to go shopping." This attitude of spend more
than you make pretty much sums up Adele's philosophy of life. When you
want to be rich, spend like you are and make up stories about your
wealth. Don't let not having money get in your way.
Some of the more successful individual scenes include a poignant one in
which Ann calls her father, who doesn't want anything to do with her,
and a humorous one in which an awkward boy drops by for a kiss.
Even if the movie has to be categorized as a near miss, Portman's work
in it is completely satisfying in its subtle emotional depth. Watching
her work is almost worth the price of admission.
Copyright © 1999 Steve Rhodes