Year Released: 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 120 minutes
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Natalie Portman stars in the ultimate chick flick — which makes this heartfelt, earnest film an absolute torture to watch. This is as irritating as chick flicks come and it’s a real disappointment since Portman’s talents are totally wasted. This film could be a complete bore and a total waste of time, UNLESS, you notice the strange similarities it has with upcoming events in STAR WARS: EPISODE II. First of all, I’m surprised that I am the only one that noticed it and I know it sounds weird, but hear me out.
The plot of the movie goes like this. Natalie Portman plays Novalee Nation, a 17 year-old, white trash girl with a heart of gold and a stomach bursting with her unborn child. Her immature and abusive boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickins (Dylan Bruno), ditches her at a Wal-Mart and takes off on his own in his badass muscle car. Novalee is shaken, but takes being dumped by the father of her child in stride. She sleeps at the local Wal-Mart for six weeks, unbeknownst to all the employees. She’s so sweet about the whole breaking and entering thing as she keeps a careful record of exactly how much money she owes Wal-Mart. During this time she makes some strange friends in the form of Sister-Husband played by Stockard Channing who acts as a surrogate mother figure. On a trip to the library, she meets Forney Hall (James Frain), he doesn’t really have the patience for Novalee’s illiteracy and is distracted by having to care for his bed-ridden sister.
Novalee gives birth in the Wal-Mart and the baby is delivered by Forney. She becomes a local celebrity and befriends nurse Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd, now appearing with Natalie for the second time in a film). Lexie is a fruitcake who has kids by three different fathers and has named them each from a different snack food. Uh, cute.
After bearing her daughter who she names “Americus” (yikes!) we pick up with the story of the ex-boyfriend. In a series of totally unnecessary scenes (since they have nothing to do with the overall story), Willy Jack attempts a career as a singer and writes one song while in jail. He works under the tutelage of Ruth Meyers, played by Joan Cusack, a tough-as-nails manager that will stop at nothing to see Willy succeed as a singer.
After a load of episodic melodrama, we learn that Novalee fears intimacy but still ends up falling for Forney. She resists confessing her love for him, but finally does in the end. (It was easy enough to see that one coming.) As for the father of her child, Novalee says a final farewell to Willy Jack years later in a hospital. He was involved in a bizarre train accident in which both of his legs were severed from his body! The scene attempts to be touching, but it comes off as ridiculous. In the end, Novalee marries Forney. Who cares?
[ WARNING: SPECULATION ABOUT STAR WARS EPISODE II and III. ] (Not quite spoilers, but worth a warning for sensitive fans.) Here’s a quick rundown of the overall story of “Where the Heart Is” and the plot points that seem to bear a striking similarity to what we know will occur in the two final chapters of the Star Wars, uh, what’s the word for a series of six films?
- Novalee seeks shelter from a storm and helplessly waits while her surrogate mother, Sister-Husband is killed needlessly. (Amidala is helpless to save Anakin’s mother Shmi Skywalker who dies tragically?)
- Novalee is involved in a love triangle of sorts with her ex-boyfriend, father of her child, and the sensitive man who watches over her child. (A love triangle between Amidala, Anakin and Obi-Wan perhaps?)
- Novalee is abandoned by the father of her child, Willy Jack who has gone off on some quest for glory and fame, and she is left to raise her daughter on her own and a good man, Forney, comes to take care of her. (Amidala sees Anakin off to the Clone Wars and in his absence, Obi-Wan comforts her?)
- Willy Jack works as a student under a manager who will teach him how to become a great talent in the music business, however, he falls from grace and is seduced by the bad elements of the business. (Anakin studies under a dark Jedi master and falls from grace by evil influences.)
- Novalee visits her crippled and horribly disfigured ex-boyfriend Willy Jack in the hospital and she is shaken by the fact that his legs are severed, yet says goodbye to him. (Amidala sees Anakin/Vader for the last time in Episode III. Anakin is now disfigured, “more machine than man” and Amidala says goodbye forever?)
- The film ends in a big wedding scene. (Queen Amidala and Anakin’s wedding?)
If taken at face value, this is a B-Movie grade level chick flick. However, it does seem to follow elements that George Lucas may have in store for the next episode of Star Wars. Yeah, it’s strange, but it’s the only thing that kept me from falling asleep or storming out of the theater as I watched this dreck.
Posted on May 8, 2000 in Reviews by Chris Gore
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