Just the Right 'Bounce'
By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 17, 2000
Full disclosure: I was one of the few critics who hated "The
Opposite of Sex," the 1998 filmmaking debut of Don Roos. So I didn't
expect to like his new film, "Bounce," any better, and not just
because the trailers make it look so sappy, which, admit it, you know
they do. I was afraid of the opposite: that the movie, like its
predecessor, would be too jaundiced and misanthropic for its own good.
Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow shine in "Bounce."
Good news: It's just jaundiced and misanthropic enough.
For me, anyway. People who revel in the bilious may be disappointed
that the sour-puss Roos has actually made a conventional
boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl-etc. romance. To heck with them.
Actually, "Bounce" is not all that conventional, as love stories
go. Its plot is more along the lines of: Boy meets boy who already has
girl; second boy dies; first boy feels guilty and introduces himself
to dead boy's girl; boy and girl lie to each other, fall in love,
break up and well, that would be telling.
Here's how it goes: Ben Affleck is womanizing ad man Buddy Amaral.
In an airport bar while waiting for a delayed flight home from a
business trip, he meets Greg Janello (Tony Goldwyn), a fellow Los
Angeleno. When Greg gets bumped from the over-booked flight, Buddy
gives him his ticket, not so much from the kindness of his heart he's
not that kind but so that he (that is, Buddy) can spend the night with
an airport pickup he's also just met (Natasha Henstridge). Oops. The
plane crashes, Greg dies. Buddy, apparently already a heavy drinker
and now wracked with guilt, descends into alcoholism. After he almost
loses his job and is sent to rehab to dry out, Buddy gets needled by
his tart-tongued and also in-recovery assistant, Seth (the always
wonderful Johnny Galecki). Soon he's all the way up to infamous steps
8 and 9 of all those 12-step programs: make a list of those you have
injured and make amends.
Which leads to Buddy looking up Greg's widow, Abby (Gwyneth
Paltrow), and, in the course of attempting to make sure she's
financially okay (steering a big sale in the direction of the novice
real estate agent), the two fall in love. At first, Abby tells Buddy
she's divorced. That's her little white lie, but she soon owns up as
the pair get closer. Buddy, however, can't quite bring himself to tell
her the truth about how he came into the picture, until Abby finds out
on her own. All hell then breaks loose.
Okay, not exactly all hell, but a little bit of hell. The look on
Paltrow's face as she kicks Buddy out is palpably pained and
conflicted. The man she loved and trusted has betrayed her, stalked
her even, and on one level may be at least indirectly responsible for
her husband's death. Ewww.
Paltrow does a superb job of conveying the character's complex
mixed emotions. And if Affleck isn't quite up to her high acting
standards, he still does a yeoman's job of portraying a man whom love
and A.A. have given a new lease on life. Buddy's yearning for Abby and
his remorse about hiding his connection to her late husband feel
genuine and unforced. Whether the stars' own romantic history as a
couple has anything to do with their apparent rapport and ease with
each other is anybody's guess, but these two characters really click.
And that's what makes "Bounce" work. Yes, the premise is a bit
preposterous and a scene near the end in which Buddy addresses Abby
via television, while testifying in a lawsuit filed against the
airline by some of the victims' families is about as far-fetched as
they come. You keep expecting some lawyer to interrupt him and say,
"Your honor, would you please direct the witness to answer the
Don't believe the hype or the commercials for this movie, which
make it look like "Sleepless in Seattle II." "Bounce" is unorthodox
romantic fare. It's a love story, yes, but one whose sweetness is cut
by honest performances, a sharply drawn supporting cast and a fairly
serious, yet never self-pitying, tone. It makes starting over look as
daunting and as rewarding as it can be.
"Bounce" (PG-13, 105 minutes) Contains obscenity and a discreet