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Anywhere But Here

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Anywhere But Here

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman
Director: Wayne Wang
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: November 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Shawn Hatosy, Hart Bochner, Bonnie Bedelia, Eileen Ryan, John Diehl, Ray Baker

Review by MrBrown
2½ stars out of 4

More than anything, teenage Ann August (Natalie Portman) wants nothing more than to escape the grasp of her kooky, overbearing mother Adele (Susan Sarandon), who dragged her from Wisconsin to Beverly Hills to start a new life. And at certain moments during the film, one similarly looks for an escape hatch; despite some engaging scenes and situations, Wayne Wang's adaptation of Mona Simpson's novel cannot help but drag, given that the film is pretty much a series of scenes with mother and daughter alternately acting hot and cold toward each other. What keeps the film engaging is not Sarandon, who does a characteristically solid but unremarkable job as Adele; but Portman, who, free from Queen Amidala's kabuki makeup and upstaging hair design, once again proves to be a young actress of extraordinary talent and stunning presence. Her piercing, layered performance deserves a better film around it.

More effective and affecting is Gavin O'Connor's indie production _Tumbleweeds_, which bears more than a few similarities to _Anywhere_but_Here_: long road trip (West Virginia to San Diego) with mother Mary Jo Walker (Janet McTeer) and young daughter Ava (Kimberly J. Brown); Mary Jo, fleeing a bad marriage, is an eccentric tart; the mother-daughter relationship evolves as they struggle to make ends meet. But there is a special warmth in this film that is missing from the other, particularly on the side of the mother. While she often acts out of selfishness (mostly her sexual appetite), Mary Jo is gentle and attentive to Ava, and her love for her is never doubted; she is a more fully realized character than _Anywhere_'s Adele, who is often so self-involved that it's hard to care much about her. McTeer, a British stage actress, is perfect as Mary Jo, as is the 12-year-old Brown, and the two share a natural rapport. O'Connor and co-scripter Angela Shelton do nothing revolutionary with the traditional mother-daughter story in a plot sense, but when the film is as lovingly put together as this funny and heartwarming one is, it is one to be savored. (_Tumbleweeds_ opens November 24)

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