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RETURN TO ME

SYNOPSIS:
Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) owns a successful Chicago construction co. In wedded bliss with Elizabeth (Joely Richardson), a sexy primatologist, the two plan to build a funky new enclosure for the zoo’s gorilla family. But after a swanky fund-raising party for the project, Elizabeth is fatally wounded in a car accident, and Bob is left to pick up the pieces. At the same time, Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver) is on her deathbed awaiting a donor for a life-saving heart transplant operation. A donor is found at the last minute, and Grace gets a new lease on life. One year later, both are beginning hesitant dips into the dating pool. A chance meeting at Grace’s family’s Irish-Italian restaurant spells love at first sight. But as things progress between the badly scarred survivors, Grace will uncover the shocking secret of their attraction.

"Unashamedly romantic with a little Hollywood magic thrown in for good measure, Return to Me is an uplifting charmer that warms the heart in more ways than one. Bonnie Hunt has stamped her personality all over this wryly funny, witty and beautifully written story, one of its main strengths being the warmth and richness of its incidental characters, that are anything but. Of course it's predictable and contrived, but this is feel-good romantic escapism, so it's fairly easy to forgive. Much of the magic comes from the hilarious matchmaking attempts, the family chaos and the irresistible Irish/Catholic/Italian restaurant lifestyle in the middle of Chicago. The wonderful characters are brought to life by marvellous performances, which cuckoon the two central characters (Minnie Driver is enchanting), making it a happy ride indeed in the armchair of romantic escapism. It's lighthearted entertainment, and doesn't pretend to be anything more than that. The characters talk about Bing, Bobby, Dean and Frank, and we do actually get to hear Sinatra and a little bit of swing. There are a couple of lines that are in questionable taste, but the humour is contagious and warmly appealing. Return to Me is a feel-good romantic comedy whose charm is as unexpected as its city courtyard garden – filled with colour and warmth of heart."
Louise Keller

"This first film by the actress Bonnie Hunt is one more attempt to recapture the magic of Old Hollywood: not only the charm of romantic comedy, but also the dream of a mystical bond between lovers that survives beyond death. Does it work? Yes and no. The plot at first appears to be one of the stupidest of all time (even the characters seem stunned by it; they stagger back and say things like 'Wow'). Yet it's brought off - religious undercurrents and all - with a surprisingly light touch: this is one of the rare Hollywood films that honours the experience of grief and loss without being evasive or maudlin. Hunt herself is excellent in the old-fashioned, wisecracking best friend part she's made her own; the style is pleasingly old-fashioned and restrained throughout. Less likeable is an element of smugness that creeps in occasionally, especially linked to David Duchovny's straightfaced putdowns of stooges too dumb to realise they're being mocked. As always, he's a baffling, somewhat two-faced actor. Playing a widower numb with grief, he's very much the sensitive New Age guy; on the other hand, he's based a whole star image on a type of deadpan irony that's much less witty than he thinks it is. To some extent, his famously tranquil acting has a deadening effect on the whole cast - especially Minnie Driver, who's less lively than usual. Overall this is perhaps nothing special, but compared to most recent tries at romantic comedy (say Nora Ephron's movies, or an average episode of Friends) it seems like relatively honest work."
Jake Wilson

"At first sight, the plot of this fluffy romantic melodrama is enough to make most men heave. A handsome, successful, and lonely widower unwittingly falls for the sweet young transplant recipient of his dead wife's heart. Oh Please! Loaded with teary, heart-wrenching emotion, Return to Me begs for a shot of adrenalin and a dose of reality. Yet Bonnie Hunt has created a screenplay full of earthy characters. Everyone seems so real. Duchovny is every bit the white-collar labourer. Driver is sweet and smarmy as a waitress at her loving extended family’s restaurant. Her grandaddy (Carroll O’Connor) and his wisecracking mafia-like retirees (Robert Loggia, Eddie Jones, William Bronder) are terrific to watch and listen to. Even Hunt and her lowbrow all-American hubby (a tubby Jim Belushi) are so grounded in family angst that we can’t help but be swept up in this far-fetched love story. Hunt so aptly combines her witty screenplay with an assured directorial delivery (her debut), that all plot contrivances become almost impervious to the harshest analysis. The most telling sequence comes from Hunt herself, sending up her own plot by blurting out "Grace has Bob's dead wife's heart!" to her dim-witted husband. While Hunt and Belushi are perfectly convincing as spouses who love and hate their rut, Duchovny and Driver give typically heart-warming performances as the emotionally and physically scarred lovebirds. They’re no Han Solo and Princess Leia, and one can’t help but think this was a role (originally intended for George Clooney) tailored to push Duchovny out of X-Files hell and into leading-man contention. The greatest flaw here, if one must be picky, is the fluffiest of well-worn Hollywood finales. But in spite of the shortcomings, Return to Me is a pleasant, likeable romantic comedy. In the wake of the disastrous The Next Best Thing, the offbeat Keeping the Faith, the forgettable Down to You, and the heavy Onegin, Return to Me is an expectant breath of fresh air."
Shannon J. Harvey

"I just don't buy this, although Shannon is right in identifying the performances as enjoyably credible. But then that's the least we expect from medium-league stars like these two. The film's heart is in the wrong place (irony intended). If we are in romantically fantastic territory, let's go all the way and let's have something Like Water for Chocolate, with fantasy boldly emblazoned on the romantic goings on. Amused by the interplay between the oldies and the young lovers, but annoyed by the cloying scenario, I found the escapism too mushy - like biting down on a soft marshmallow."
Andrew L. Urban

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER

RETURN TO ME (M)
(US)

CAST: David Duchovny, Minnie Driver, Carrol O’Connor, Robert Loggia, Bonnie Hunt, David Allen Grier, Joely Richardson

DIRECTOR: Bonnie Hunt

PRODUCER: Jennie Lew Tugend

SCRIPT: Don Lake, Bonnie Hunt

CINEMATOGRAPHER: László Kovács

EDITOR: Garth Craven

MUSIC: Nicholas Pike

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Brent Thomas

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 3, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE:February 7, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR:Fox







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