Anywhere But Here

Directed by Wayne Wang
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Shawn Hatosy, Bonnie Bedelia, Ray Baker.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sex-related material.

Review by Matt Heffernan
November 13, 1999

After seeing the overblown tragedy of The Messenger, I needed a nice, quiet film to bring me down. Thankfully, Anywhere But Here did the trick.

Adele August (Susan Sarandon) has dreams of making in California. She leaves her husband, Ted (Ray Baker), buys a used Mercedes, and takes her daughter, Ann (Natalie Portman), away from Bay City, Wisconsin to start a new life in Beverly Hills. All Adele has waiting for her out there is a job interview at a Los Angeles school, and the hopes of Ann becoming an actress, even if Ann wants nothing to do with it, herself.

Adele finds a cheap apartment just within Beverly Hills, so that Ann can go to the ritzy public high school in that district. Ann is very upset with her eccentric mother, and wants nothing more than to go back to Wisconsin. She is very close to her cousin, Benny (Shawn Hatosy -- Outside Providence), and all the other "normal" people back east. There is no reasoning with Adele, however, so Ann just has to bide her time until she can go away to college.

This film really works because of the performances by Sarandon and Portman. Ann, at times, seems to be on the verge of insanity, and the normally reserved Sarandon goes flamboyantly over the top, but is never untrue to the character. Portman's performance perfectly balances it, expressing the typical teenage yearning to be free of a misunderstanding parent. Their relationship is quite complex, and can often generate laughter and tears, without being goofy or overly sentimental.

A major problem with the film, however, is a slow second act. The characters are devoloped well in the first act, then the relationship is resolved in the third, but very little happens in the middle that was necessary to show. If the lead actresses had been of a lesser caliber, the film could have been quite dreadful. Luckily, they pull it off, with the help of director Wayne Wang (The Joy Luck Club), who is in familiar territory here.

So, if you are looking for a chick flick that doesn't include any beheadings or necrophilia, I would recommend seeing this film.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Anywhere But Here (1999)

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Review © 1999 Matt Heffernan