Hope Floats

Hope Floats is a paint-by-the-numbers film, but what a picture it paints.

Birdee (Sandra Bullock) Pruit is about to get the surprise of her life, on national TV. Her husband is having an affair with her best friend. Birdee was the “Queen of Corn” in the small town of Smithville, Texas. She married her high school sweetheart, the quarterback of the high school football team, and moved out of Smithville - heading for a big city.

With the breakup between Birdee and her husband, she returns to Smithville, taking her daughter, Bernice (Mae Whitman) with her. Birdee moves in with her mother, Ramona (Gena Rowlands). She also meets an old high school mate, Justin (Harry Connick Jr.) with whom she starts a romance.

Hope Floats relies not on creativity but on cliches to move the story along and to try to tug at our hearts and tears. In the case of the latter, it did not produce any tears, but it did tug at my heart. The movie does move along at a good pace.

Sandra Bullock returns to the genre that kicked off her stardom: the romantic film. Bullock has shown in the past that she has a limited range in her acting skills, and with Hope Floats she doesn’t change that standing. This is fine though because Bullock has a very down to earth, girl-next-door, look and we feel at home with her onscreen presence.

Harry Connick Jr. hasn’t really had any memorable large roles. The two roles that I remember him by are his small role as a fighter pilot in Independence Day and his somewhat larger role as the creepy killer in CopyCat. Here in Hope Floats Connick does a decent job, but it is all but a forgettable role and performance.

It is not Bullock’s performance that sticks out in Hope Floats. It is the performances of the child actors and the performance of Gena Rowlands as Birdee’s mom that stand out. Mae Whitman gives a good performance as Birdee’s daughter, though I had a hard time believing that the geeky looking Whitman would be a product of Bullock and the quarterback husband. The other child actor, Cameron Finley, as Birdee’s nephew, is very memorable. This kid has talent and it really shows onscreen. Gena Rowlands as the animal-stuffing mother is the funniest role of the film.

Worth mentioning is the beautiful cinematography by Caleb Deschanel and the bright production design by Larry Fulton. The combinations of these two talents make what might be a drab film stand out. I loved the way Deschanel shot Fulton’s dance hall; look for this in the film.

The script by Steven Rogers works, but is not as good as it should have been. Forrest Whitaker does a good job at keeping the movie moving along. I found myself looking at my watch once during the film, but not much after that.

My friend Theresa Perez, who caught an early preview of Hope Floats, describes the film best: “It’s a chick-flick.” Hope Floats might not be the perfect movie, but it is a beautiful movie and a good date film. I recommend Hope Floats.

Edited by Cher Johnson.