Retro Film Review: Hope Floats (1998)

in #filmlast month


The author of this review lives in the country where people didn't show great enthusiasm, at least initially, for Jerry Springer Show and similar forms of television entertainment. The main reason was in people's scepticism towards such shows; they believed such shows to be acts rather than reality. It was simply hard to imagine anyone reacting to lines like "Hey, darling, we're going to Chicago where I would tell you most intimate secret in front of television audience and we'll have a blast" with a nod of approval. Persons who give such blank cheques were viewed as too stupid to exist in real life. When such levels of stupidity appear in Hollywood films, they must be made credible or at least serve some dramatic purposes. This is something that authors of Hope Floats, 1998 drama directed by Forest Whitaker, failed to do.

The film starts with Birdee Prewitt (played by Sandra Bullock) arriving to television studio as a guest of daytime talk show. There she learns about her best friend Connie (played by Roseanna Arquette) having sordid affair with her husband Bill (played by Michael Paré). Disgraced and devastated, Birdee leaves Bill, takes their 9-year old daughter Bernice (played by Mae Whitman) and heads to her home town of Smithsville, Texas. She is housed by her mother Ramona (played by Gena Rowlands), eccentric old lady who shares huge house with her grandson Travis (played by Cameron Finley). Not all of Smithsville citizens are friendly towards Birdee - she used to be most popular and most envied girl in high school and many of her former friends and acquaintances are delighted with her downfall. Birdee, who never got education or typing skills, is forced to seek job for the first time in her life. The only glimmer of hope for Birdee is Justin Matisse (played by Harry Connick Jr.), old friend who used to have huge crush on her in high school.

Hope Floats begins with the scene that offers two possible paths for the film - it could have been a delightfully black comedy or drama dealing with some serious issues. Unfortunately, Steven Rogers' script goes to all-too-familiar territory of "chick flick" - "uplifting and empowering" drama about women who find inner strength to reshape their lives following personal disaster. In doing so, Hope Floats almost immediately begins to drown itself in cliches and predictability. For example, as soon Connick's character appears in the film, the audience knows that he and the protagonist would end up as couple. Fate of almost any character in this film seems preordained, despite Rogers' attempts to confuse the issues by making each and every character stupid and annoying. That includes protagonist, which is played by Sandra Bullock, immensely talented comedic actress who here shows drama not to be her forte. Director Forest Whitaker makes things even worse by using "artsy" and overlong shots that push Hope Floats to almost nearly two hours of running time. For most of the audience those two hours could be spent in more constructive ways than to endure this uninspired piece of Hollywood formula.

RATING: 2/10 (-)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on July 26th 2004)

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