BOUNCE(director/writer: Don Roos; cinematographer: Robert Elswit; editor: David Codron; cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Abby Janello), Ben Affleck (Buddy Amaral), Alex D. Linz (Scott Janello), David Dorfman (Joey Janello), Natasha Henstridge (Mimi), Tony Goldwyn (Greg Janello), Jennifer Grey (Mrs. Janice Guererro), Joe Morton (Jim), David Paymer (Prosecution Lawyer), Caroline Aaron (Donna, Abby’s Friend), Johnny Galecki (Seth, Buddy’s assistant); Runtime: 105; Miramax Films; 2000)
“This modest production scored with me.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
“Bounce” had some… bounce to its moralistic romantic tale, as it sets up a formulaic dilemma for a couple who fall in love and have to face their own private demons. Don Roos (“The Opposite of Sex“), the director-screenwriter, has come up with a smart script and lets his adult stars act like real adults do and is not ashamed of the glossy film becoming a tearjerker. When the romance story tugs shamelessly at the heart it feels good because there is a heartfelt rhythm in this film. The film is thoroughly engrossing and well-crafted until the closing scenes, where some speeches are made to clear the air which seemed totally unnecessary. What helped carry the film through such contrived spots was the rumored real-life romantic couple who star in the film, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, playing two hurt souls who don’t expect to fall in love but do. Ben being a smug, womanizing ad executive and Gwyneth, a young widow not knowing how to bounce back from the loss of her husband in a plane crash. They had great chemistry onscreen and Paltrow, in particular, was appealing. In the Hollywood tradition of such love stories it seemed easy for the audience to root for them to get together and make the romance work, since the couple seemed to be in love. The only thing is that the film is a little tougher than how most mainstream films do romances but is not edgy enough to be an art film — so it falls into the category of being not one or the other type of film, which might cause it to be ignored by both audiences.
Waiting out a snowstorm at a bar at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, Buddy Amaral (Affleck) casually converses with writer Greg Janello (Tony Goldwyn) and a pretty blonde businesswoman Mimi (Natasha Henstridge), and shoots a video of the three of them horsing around. Greg voluntarily bumped himself from an LA-bound flight in order to get two free round-trip tickets to anywhere in the U.S., plus he received $200. But he feels guilty about being so cheap and letting down his family by not going home at once. Mimi has been given a free hotel room because her flight was canceled and when Buddy sees her flashing the room coupon as a come on, he quickly decides to give his Los Angeles ticket to Greg and spend the night with Mimi instead. Greg takes the ticket because he is anxious to get back to his wife and two young sons and do some pre-Christmas things with them, though feeling nervous about taking the ticket he is, at least, relieved of his guilty feelings about abandoning his family because of saving money.
The plane crashes in Kansas and the story goes into much detail of the passenger mix-up, of the airline first saying Greg is not aboard and then reversing themselves. Greg’s wife Abby (Paltrow), not knowing if he was on the flight becomes devastated when she finds out that he was killed in the crash.
The crash has a great affect on Buddy also as he goes through a personality transformation from being a slick playboy-type, to someone who becomes overloaded with guilt and sensitivity. Buddy’s alcohol problem becomes more severe and he freaks out when drunk during an award ceremony that his ad company wins for doing this bathetic commercial for the airline to express bereavement to the families for the loved ones they lost.
A year passes as Buddy goes through an alcohol rehab program and returns to work, but gets transferred to a different southern California location, which happens to be where Greg’s wife lives. Greg still feels guilty for not dying and has a need to meet Abby to see if she’s OK and make amends to her as part of his A.A. 12 step program, but does not have enough nerve to tell her that he was the one who switched tickets with her hubby. She’s going through her own guilt-trip and also lies to him by telling him she’s divorced. When Buddy feels sorry for her, seeing how she’s a neophyte in the real estate business, he arranges to throw her a big bone as he connives his boss (Morton) into letting her sell him the more spacious building his company needs to move its operations to; thereby, she unexpectedly gets a tremendous commission.
They both seem tentative about the attraction they have for each other, as they are afraid of entering a relationship; but, Greg is willing to forget about Abby and be glad that he made amends by helping her out materially. But Abby suddenly shows up at his workplace with two tickets to see a Dodgers game, with the excuse that she wants to thank him for what he did. Abby also comes clean and admits she lied about being divorced, but Greg still needs more time to get his secret off his chest. They finally sleep together, and he then shows he’s a good guy and a changed person by bonding with the kids. Sex is not presented as the prize here, as much as a serious and meaningful relationship is. It has probably been ages since that theme was tried as seriously as it was in this mainstream film, and that just might be the most refreshing thing about the film.
But Greg waits too long to tell Abby that he’s the one who gave her husband the ticket on the ill-fated flight, as she finds out in a surprising way about it and can’t forgive him. Her decision to break the relationship causes anguish to both of them, as they try to find out what it is they want and how they really feel. Since Paltrow is the better actor, she mops up the screen in these scenes of anguish and is convincing as someone who has been damaged and is afraid of getting hurt again. Affleck is good as an actor conveying someone who is arrogant and shallow and full of false bravado, but is not convincing as someone who has been down for the count and is bouncing back as a changed man. His sudden change to the sensitive-type seemed artificial, leaving questions about what he was doing in the first place in meeting her, if he couldn’t tell her that he knew her husband. It left me wondering, how sensitive of a person could he really have become, if he could only help her materially and not understand that his drinking masked deeper problems he had in his character– such as his perverse reason for lying. Also, what I never quite understood is why he has to make amends to her, since he had nothing to do with the accident and was actually helping her husband out by giving him the free ticket. He might have hurt others during his callow period, but I can’t see how he purposely hurt Abby and her husband.
But the film had enough of a realistic romance under its belt to not be buried for dead with its contrivances. In addition it had some pretty good players in supporting roles. Joe Morton always gives a fine performance and here as the sturdy, no-nonsense businessman he grounds the film in some needed reality. Johnny Galecki is around for some levity as the gay assistant to Affleck who fires away at his boss, not afraid to confront him with opposition in the midst of his moral dilemma. Caroline Aaron has the cardboard role as Abby’s supportive friend, but she’s not intrusive and is pleasant. Alex D. Linz and David Dorfman are perfect as Abby’s kids, trying to get a handle on Affleck and recover from not having a father around, while receiving TLC from their harried mother. Jennifer Grey is the airline rep who covers up for Affleck when he switches tickets with Greg, and is believable in her small part.
This modest production scored with me. And if it didn’t have that phony civil court scene at the end, with Affleck forced to act in such a disingenuously apologetic manner, the film would have been much better. This is an adult romantic film, with the adults interested in having a real relationship. I’m so conditioned by now, that I think only foreign films or art house films operate that way.
REVIEWED ON 11/23/2000 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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