I know that a lot of people were shocked/stunned/wowed by Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance in “Black Swan”. I wasn’t one of those people. Truthfully, there are so many better performances by this actress. Just to throw out 3 of them which I think trump “Black Swan”, check out Natalie in “Garden State”, “Leon the Professional”, and “Beautiful Girls”. I thought she was also excellent in “V for Vendetta”, but that could be the story itself talking. Never the less, Natalie is a fine actress, and I believe the Oscar was over-due. I had never seen her in “Where the Heart Is” though, and it is another role to add to that list above. Man, can she play white trailer trash well! I mean I found this be a stunning transformation and utterly believable.
The story may be a bit hokey, at least at first, but it grew on me quickly. I was utterly won over to this film by Portman’s portrayal of Novalee Nation. It’s stunning to see just how well she lived up to the role. It’s in her voice, her mannerisms, and even how she acts physically. I thought she really was pregnant at first! Then I remembered that this film was released in 2000. I bought it completely.
“Where the Heart Is” gives us Ashley Judd as well, in a surprising role. I say “surprising” because she takes a back seat to Portman. I found Judd to be very believable too. She’s not playing some perfect character without flaws; this character’s got plenty. Judd though is spot-on perfect though as the believable best friend for life, Lexie Coop. She’s honest and direct, and she could easily be somebody you know. With the performances of Judd and Portman working together, this film was a delight!
However, it didn’t end there. Stockard Channing turns in a memorable performance as the how-could-you-forget character of Sister Husband. The character may be a bit zany and contrived, but Stockard does it so well that you don’t even notice! Again, a very believable personality. Add in a small part by the ever-enjoyable Keith David as a Wal-Mart photographer and you can begin to see that the supporting cast is really quite good. One of the other main characters is Forney Hull, played by James Frain. Frain is an actor that you may not even remember, but is really quite talented (and this film definitely shows it!). Compare this role of Forney to his roles in “The Count of Monte Crsito”, “Reindeer Games”, and the vast work he has done on TV (I had no idea- just look him up on IMDB.com.) Frain is pretty brilliant!
“Where the Heart Is” is a compelling tale because the actors and their characters just reel you in. Once you get even 15 minutes into the film, you find yourself wondering just what Novalee will do. You find yourself rooting for the characters like Lexie and Forney, and you hope for a happy ending – against all hope. I found this to be an emotional movie and very rich in both the quality of the acting as well as the directing. Of course, I didn’t know this at the time of watching the film, but some directors are so obviously talented at their jobs, you just assume they have a veteran-like background. I didn’t recognize Matt Williams by name, but when you see that man’s resume, you’ll smack yourself in the forehead – just like I did – and say “well, no wonder!”
…and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE