Then She Found Me," directed by actress Helen Hunt, is a chick flick, in the sense that its engine is inextricably female -- not in typical ad-agency fashion, but in ways that are messy, complicated and contradictory. April Epner (Hunt) is a 39-year-old teacher whose biological clock is clouding her judgment: As the film begins, the desperate-for-a-baby April is marrying Ben, the figurative boy-next-door (he teaches in the next classroom) and a male of the classic, mother-fixated variety. So, like anything done for the wrong reasons, there's an implicit doom hanging over the nuptials: When the couple flees their reception for an amusement park (to ride the bumper cars), it's an obvious move by director Hunt, but grimly funny nonetheless.
And then . . . the domestic effluence hits the rotary appliance: Mom dies. Ben leaves. And local TV celebrity Bernice Graves (Bette Midler), a one-woman version of "The View," materializes to announce that she is April's biological mother. In the midst of this, Frank (Colin Firth), one of April's school dads, whose wife has abandoned him and their two children, starts lighting up April's life.
Hunt directs a lot of this like a TV movie, and the music by the estimable David Mansfield is used to frog-march the film's emotional content, rather than letting it simply enhance the proceedings. But the screenplay, by Hunt, Alice Arlen and Victor Levin, contains that rare quality (nuance), and the actors respond. Hunt plays April with all the native emotional recoil that an attractive, intelligent, unmarried 39-year-old woman might possess; Midler's Bernice, although occasionally beaming in from some other movie, has the perspective on others' emotional pain of someone whose entire worldview had been formed by daytime TV. And Firth, who pretty much steals the movie, is sensitive and handsome in a rumpled dad kind of way, playing his scenes with an armory of rapier emotions.
"Then She Found Me" suffers from, if anything, a lack of pure confidence in the story, the actors or the audience. But anyone going to see it won't need quite the number of clues as to how they're supposed to be feeling. They'll know. And a lot better, and a lot sooner, than April Epner.
-- John Anderson (May 9, 2008)
Contains sexual situations and vulgarity.