Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ben Finally Delivers With Bounce!

The Good: Ben Affleck's acting, Pacing, Dialog
The Bad: Predictable plot and character arcs, Duration of setup
The Basics: A competent romance film that has a contrived plot, Bounce has sensible characters arcs that result in a very real sense of how people interact.

Those of you who read my reviews know I've been waiting, desperately for a film with Ben Affleck that I like and would love to recommend. I want to like his work. For some reason, I keep forgetting he's in Dogma (reviewed here!). Anyway, he didn't dazzle me in Reindeer Games nor Forces Of Nature (reviewed here!). In Bounce, Ben Affleck comes through for me.

Bounce is pretty much your typical romance flick. Buddy Amaral is your confident, cocky, party-type drunk who works for an advertising agency. On his way back from a business trip, he meets up with two people and when flights are delayed, he ends up giving his ticket to one and going to bed with the other. Then, the plane crashes. Shortly thereafter, Buddy does too. After detox and rehab, Buddy goes out and finds Abby Janello, the wife of the man Buddy swapped tickets with.

Okay, we can see a mile away that Buddy and Abby are going to fall in love. Abby lies right away, saying she is divorced, not widowed, Buddy omits that he knows this and knew her late husband. So, we have the pretty predictable drama set up. We know the plot almost right away.

What saves this film is the dialog. It's tight, it's real. The film is packed with an overwhelming sense of loss and mourning. There's a whole tone of unhappiness and desperation to connect that "reads" as very real throughout. Anyone who has lost a loved one will recognize the struggle Abby is going through in the film. It is written and executed with realism in mind.

And therein lies the weakness of the film. It's very real. And in real life things are difficult and clunky (perfectly illustrated by Abby's near constant failure to recognize Buddy's jokes) and they take a while to come together. Well, that level of realism occurs in Bounce and it's almost the death warrant of the film. The first half hour is all set up. That works well for realism, even a little for drama, but not entertainment. This opens the film with necessary detail and efficiency, but with little entertainment.

Throughout the remainder of the film, the realism works. It is aided by surprisingly good acting by the principle characters. Ben Affleck works well as Buddy tackling a serious role well. Gwyneth Paltrow succeeds far better than she did in Shakespeare In Love (reviewed here!) and her job as Abby is made real by her amazing facial control. She has detail and nuance which she brings to Abby. She works. The child actors playing Abby's sons are surprisingly good as well.

So, it's a romance and people fall in love and they are tested and so it goes and so it goes. Bounce works because the characters work, even if they're following a plot arc we've seen a hundred times. What works is that it's not simply a romance, everyone loves each other, everything works. The conflict here is not contrived, it's genuine. Buddy isn't a terribly nice guy, Abby isn't as honest as she projects. The film works.

Strangely, this is usually recommended as a date flick. I don't think it works as that because it's far too somber, the tone is too immersed in the sense one gets when one knows one is lying about something that we know will hurt another. That nagging feeling an honest person gets under such circumstances drowns this film.

But, at the very least, it's a film worthy of a watching and Ben Affleck finally comes through.

For other works featuring Gwyneth Paltrow, please visit my reviews of:
Glee - Season Two, Volume 1
Iron Man 2
Iron Man


For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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