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A tricky 'Bounce': Affleck-Paltrow romance doesn't ring true in too many places

Friday, November 17, 2000

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

"Bounce" begins with enough emotional verisimilitude that it comes as a significant disappointment to find the movie takes the Hollywood way out in almost every one of its key scenes thereafter.


Rating: PG-13, for some language and sensuality.

Players: Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow.

Director: Don Roos.

Critic's call:


Ben Affleck portrays Buddy Amaral, a successful advertising executive who is full of himself, among other things. He's just closed a huge deal in Chicago, and he's booked on a flight home to Los Angeles that night.

But snowy weather causes delays, and Buddy makes the acquaintance of several other stranded passengers. They include Greg (Tony Goldwyn), a writer with a wife and two children, and Mimi (Natasha Henstridge), a comely blond. She represents a good reason to stay overnight, so Buddy gives his ticket to Greg.

Somewhere over Kansas, the plane crashes. Suddenly, Buddy is not quite so smug. And Greg's wife, Abby (a brown-haired Gwyneth Paltrow), finds herself a widow and single mother.

While trying to come to terms with his own shaken emotions, Greg makes it a point to seek out Abby. Initially, he wants to find a way to make it up to her. But he proceeds to fall in love with her. At first, neither of them can speak the truth about what happened to Greg. In the end, the tension of the movie rests entirely upon the question of when Buddy will 'fess up, and how Abby will react.

So why does it seem that the best part of the movie takes place before they meet? I suspect the answer lies in the fact that the story is primarily about Buddy. Writer-director Don Roos shows us almost everything from his point of view. Buddy's journey requires him to change from jerk to mensch. Abby, of course, must come to terms with Greg's death. But because she doesn't know how Buddy figures in, that can't happen until the story heads into the final act.

Perhaps that explains why Paltrow's performance seems a bit unfocused, especially in the chaotic scene where Abby and Buddy first meet. This farcical moment seems out of place in a film that otherwise at least tries to take itself seriously. Abby, a fledgling real-estate agent, comes off as such a ditz that we can't believe it when she displays quick-thinking competence on the job a few scenes later.

But then come those familiar screenplay mechanisms that undercut the movie's realism. Each character has a friend or associate who has no purpose except to act as a sounding board and a kind of conscience. Johnny Galecki is quite good as Buddy's frank-talking subordinate, but in real life the boss would fire the guy and mean it. Caroline Aaron plays Abby's pal Donna, who is always around whenever she's needed. We should all be so lucky.

Of course, something has to happen right before Buddy confesses to Abby to make it look like he never intended to do so. And when he finally does make things right, he must do so in a big enough forum to prove that he means everything he says.

In the movies, you can't just do the right thing. You have to do it in capital letters.

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