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WHERE THE HEART IS

SYNOPSIS:
Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) is 17, pregnant and has just been abandoned by her musician boyfriend Willy Jack (Dylan Bruno) at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. With nowhere to turn, she secretly makes her home in the department store, where she gives birth, giving her and her 'Wal-Mart' baby celebrity status. She is befriended by Lexie (Ashley Judd), Forney (James Frain), the local librarian, Sister Husband (Stockard Channing) and photographer Moses Whitecotten (Keith David) and starts a new life. In the meantime Willy Jack signs up with no-nonsense Nashville agent Ruth Meyers (Joan Cusack).

"Poignant and uplifting, Where the Heart Is is a compelling tale of a young girl's emotional journey from destitute to accomplished. A little like Erin Brockovich perhaps. And just as we fell in love with Julia Roberts' Erin, we are captivated by Natalie Portman's Novalee whose profound insecurities become part of the past (or remain in one of the Wal-Mart aisles). Exquisite to look at, Portman is every inch the star and is the central pivot for this character driven story set in the Midwest, where the characters are as complex and colourful as the accents. Director Matt Williams has surrounded her with a superb cast that portrays a fascinating brew of characters whose eccentricity rings true. It's easy therefore to forgive some of the script's flaws, namely how melodrama occasionally seeps in, like the sequence when the hurricane hits, which made me think I was watching another movie. But there's much to enjoy. Ashley Judd as Lexie is a real scene stealer: she is so darn honest and we watch her make the same mistakes over and over when it comes to her choice of men. By contrast, her ability to fall pregnant is another matter, and the names of her children (named after snack foods Brownie, Twinkle, Praline..) reinforce Moses Whitecotton's message that names should mean something. And what a lot of meaningful names we encounter, including that of Mason Daring, whose bubbling soundtrack adds to the mood. Stockard Channing is memorable as the eccentric alcoholic mother figure whose apologies for fornication over the dinner table are amusing while Joan Cusack is a wonderful caricature. Plus there's an uncredited cameo from Sally Field. Where the Heart Is is an absorbing story about dreams, self respect and overcoming the odds. In life's complicated chess game, we have no choice but to play."
Louise Keller

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TRAILER

WHERE THE HEART IS (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, Joan Cusack, James Frain, Dylan Bruno, Keith David

DIRECTOR: Matt Williams

PRODUCER: Matt Williams, Susan Cartsonis, David McFadzean, Patricia Whitcher

SCRIPT: Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (based on the novel by Billie Letts)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Richard Greatrex B.S.C.

EDITOR: Ian Crafford

MUSIC: Mason Daring

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Paul Peters

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 31, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

VIDEO RELEASE: January 10, 2001







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