Then She Found Me (**)
As a film about a woman on the brink of 40—and as one directed by and starring a woman around that age, Helen Hunt—Then She Found Me can seem, by sheer virtue of its existence, unique, compassionate and smart. This is by no means unfamiliar territory, however. One finds it abundantly in popular contemporary fiction (Then She Found Me is loosely based on a novel by Elinor Lipman, using more clichés than even she would dare to). Its compassion is limited to its whiny subject; its smartness is for the most part hollow and quippy.
To be fair, Hunt goes to some lengths to problematize her character, kindergarten teacher April Epner, whose dilemma—wanting to have a baby before it’s too late—is compounded by a recent separation from her husband, her adoptive mother’s death and her birth mother’s reappearance soon thereafter. As portrayed by Hunt, April doesn’t just seem like someone to pity and thus to identify with; one gets a slight sense, because of the exhausted prickliness Hunt puts into her voice and mien, that April has made a difficult career out of retracting, ostrich-like, from life.
When she gets going, however, she learns only the dullest of self-empowerment lessons. Confronting her birth mother—a predictably brassy Bette Midler—she wields a courageous, trying-to-deal skepticism one would expect from a bourgeois heroine. She dismisses her feckless ex-husband (Matthew Broderick) and hesitates with her new beau (Colin Firth) with the same kind of glib self-importance. April wants a lot, and Then She Found Me wants you to see her get it. Of course, what she gets isn’t quite what she plans (isn’t life funny that way?), but it still seems a narcissistic vindication. As April says near the end of the film, in what is, astoundingly, designed as her epiphany, “Maybe God is difficult, awful, complicated…like me!”
Then She Found Me is now playing at the Cumberland (159 Cumberland St.) and the Grand Sheppard Centre (4861 Yonge St.).