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Where the Heart Is

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Where the Heart Is

Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd
Director: Matt Williams
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 118 Minutes
Release Date: April 2000
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Stockard Channing, Dylan Bruno, Keith David, Jim Beaver, Joan Cusack

Review by MrBrown
No Rating Supplied

For all the surface eccentricities of the story, which derives from Billie Letts' novel of the same name, Matt Williams' film follows a simple course where a good-hearted woman is placed in adverse circumstances and then slowly but surely triumphs over them. Along the way, she even helps others triumph over their own adversities. Sound familiar? It should--this is the rubric for the genre that I've come to call the "Oprah movie": slick, well-meaning, female-empowering, and just about as exciting and suspenseful as the middle label implies. (Not surprisingly, Letts' novel was an Oprah book club selection.) Such films are hard to hate--and, indeed, _Where_the_Heart_Is_ is likable--but they're just as difficult to get worked up over in the positive sense. The individual elements are put together with care, but they are also assembled with an obvious calculation--lending the film a less-than-authentic gloss.

Portman, on the other hand, remains natural and genuine throughout. But her "realness" is constricted by the conventions, much like in _Anywhere_but_Here_, her last film--and another entry in the Oprah genre. She's too young and vibrant a performer to pigeonhole herself in films like _Where_the_Heart_Is_, which are precious and nice but hardly the most interesting and effective uses of her talent--not to mention not the most interesting and rewarding films to sit through.

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