Bounce
directed by Don Roos
(Miramax, 2000)

It's a good thing I read the occasional People magazine while waiting for doctor appointments. If I depended on Bounce for signs that the movie's two stars, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck, were once romantically involved in real life, I never would have guessed it.

In a film about the tragedies and close calls in life's random moments, Paltrow and Affleck play people who come together -- under not-so-honest circumstances -- after their lives are ripped apart by a plane crash. They're Bounce's romantic center, and yet it seems, in some scenes, like they've just met.

Affleck is Buddy Amaral (pronounced "amoral"), a self-centered go-getter. Stuck in a snowbound airport, he gives his ticket on the last plane out to a guy named Greg and sticks around for a one-night stand. Great luck for Buddy; not so great for Greg. The plane crashes, killing everyone onboard.

The guilt crushes Buddy, shakes his confidence and spurs a drinking binge that lands him in rehab. We next see him, 10 seconds later, clean, sober and traveling to check on Greg's widow, Abby, to make sure she's OK. He, of course, doesn't tell Abby who he really is or that he knew her late husband. But he does her a few business favors, they flirt, she takes him to a baseball game in the cheap seats and ... he's so smitten he doesn't even care he's not in the box seats. That's how much rehab has changed Buddy; he's a new, sensitive, unsnobbish man.

Quite a lot for rehab to change, and we don't get to see any of the process of transformation. If only rehab were really this easy.

Writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex, Single White Female) has crafted a script and a movie that focus so much on the trajectory of Abby and Buddy's relationship that we don't get a good picture of what draws them to each other. We don't get an idea of what's going on in their minds or any of the small early-relationship crises until The Big Crisis looms. (You knew there had to be one: Will Abby discover who Buddy really is?)

And that drives us home to the crux of the Gwyneth/Ben acting relationship: In this film, you believe she could be Abby. But while Ben has his moments, there are others that shine a light on the gulf between his acting in the film and hers. Sometimes, his tears look wrenchingly real. Other times, he looks like he's pinching himself just out of camera range to get that pained look just right.

Part of the problem may lie in the script: Abby seems so close to Paltrow's own sunny-woman image that it's an easier transition for her. And there's little relief from the focus on the Abby/Ben factor; supporting actors seem to be there only to drive plot, not for real interaction. Too bad the characters aren't strong enough to stand up to such scrutiny.

One caveat: If you're perfectly happy to watch either Gwyneth or Ben onscreen because they're so good looking, then Bounce won't disappoint. There are lots of you out there, so rent it on those terms and you'll be fine. But to watch Bounce to see either of the leads stretch their wings? Check out Shakespeare in Love instead, or head out to the theaters for Pearl Harbor to give Ben another chance.

[ by Jen Kopf ]
Rambles: 29 September 2001



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