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(1998) (Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick, Jr.) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Moderate None Heavy None None
Minor None None None Mild
Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: A woman tries to rebuild her life, after learning that her husband's having an affair with her best friend, by moving back to her hometown with her daughter.
Birdee Calvert's (SANDRA BULLOCK) seemingly perfectly life grinds to a halt when she discovers on national TV that her best friend, Connie (ROSANNA ARQUETTE), is having an affair with Bill (MICHAEL PARΙ), her husband and high school sweetheart. Distraught, she takes their young daughter, Bernice (MAE WHITMAN), and heads back home to Smithville, Texas -- where in high school she was the beauty queen -- to live with her mother, Ramona (GENA ROWLANDS), and nephew Travis (CAMERON FINLEY).

Birdee and Ramona were never that close, but now that her father is in a nursing home, Birdee must deal with her mother's intervening ways. One of those is trying to fix up Birdee with an old schoolmate, Justin Matisse (HARRY CONNICK, JR.), a gifted architect who'd rather do odd handyman jobs than be rushed through his work. As Birdee tries to cope with her feelings, she must also deal with her daughter's new rebellious attitude, her mother's meddling ways, and her confused, but growing attraction to Justin who wants to become more than friends with her.

If they're fans of someone in the cast or of romantic dramas, they just might.
For thematic elements.
  • SANDRA BULLOCK plays a former high school standout whose dream life is shattered when she discovers that her husband is having an affair with her best friend. Consequently, she becomes depressed, angry and confused (and is somewhat drunk in one scene) as she has to figure out what to do with her life.
  • HARRY CONNICK, JR.plays a humble, southern gentleman who wants to win Birdee's heart.
  • GENA ROWLANDS plays Birdee's near eccentric mother who's never had a close relationship with her daughter, but does try to help get her out of her funk.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    Essentially a supped up, big screen version of a standard made for TV movie, "Hope Floats" — actress Sandra Bullock's latest starring vehicle -- has a few entertaining and touching moments, but otherwise comes off as a lackluster, slow-moving feature. Featuring decent, but not very well developed characters, the film has more than its share of predictable, melodramatic and ultimately depressing moments that undermine what could have been a much better feature.

    While some people, for whatever reason, like depressing stories, this type of plot falls into our category of "Why Do We Want To See Such Things On The Big Screen?" Audiences usually go to the theater for escapist reasons — to laugh, get excited, be afraid, etc... — that let us leave our often blase lives and careers. Although some may appreciate seeing that their lives are better than those portrayed on screen, the rest of us usually prefer not to experience depressing, mundane material.

    The only exception, of course, is unless the performances are superb, the plot is wonderfully written, and the film has an uplifting ending. While this movie ultimately does show that hope does indeed float, that notion comes as a near tack-on ending and is preceded by a volley of melodramatic moments intended to make women weep and moisten the eyes of even the manliest of men, but surprisingly don't do so.

    Working from newcomer Steven Rogers' script, director Forest Whitaker (the director of "Waiting To Exhale," but better known for his acting roles in films such as "Phenomenon" and "Blown Away"), delivers some nice moments and occasionally quirky characterizations, but ultimately fails to give the film much emotional resonance. For instance, while the grandmother is something of an eccentric taxidermist and her grandson has a penchant for acting out different costumed cartoon personalities — all of which provide the film with some much needed levity — those elements are brief while the multitude of melodramatic moments are just that — melodramatic.

    Thus, we have the standard depressed wife who wants to sleep all day and walks through the pouring rain at night and whose child now blames her for the family's problems. Then there's the grandmother who has a suspicious cough, but can still manage to solve her granddaughter's problems with one bedtime story.

    For a while Whitaker's subtle — and not so subtle — touches work their charm and the film's problems can be moderately overlooked. Yet when we, the characters, and the story are poised on the brink of happiness, the movie takes a sudden and then long turn into more depressive melodrama and ruins what had been building up. While, and not surprisingly, everything turns out okay in the end, the puppeteer's manipulative strings are clearly too obvious to the audience and that's why we never fully get involved.

    Overall, the performances from the cast are good but not outstanding. This is certainly a significant departure for Sandra Bullock who's better known for her romantic comedies such as "While You Were Sleeping" and her stints in action films such as the "Speed" movies. While she's believable in her role, Bullock doesn't really have the dramatic range to completely pull it off and that, coupled with the mediocre and predictable way in which her character's been written, keeps the audience from ever totally caring about her. What we really want to see is that bubbly Bullock grin, and while it occasionally surfaces, most of the time it's concealed under a depressed or exasperated expression.

    Musician and actor Harry Connick, Jr. ("Independence Day," "Copycat") delivers the standard, charming good ol' boy character who's surprisingly single and is the catalyst for the main character's change in demeanor. While good in that stereotypical role, he's not given much room to develop. Two-time Oscar nominee Gena Rowlands ("Gloria," "A Woman Under The Influence") is likewise hampered by a less than fleshed out character and similarly plays the standard issue, slightly wacky but ultimately wise grandmother.

    Nine-year-old Mae Whitman ("Independence Day," "One Fine Day") does a decent job as the distraught daughter despite being saddled with even more stereotypical elements (no friends, kids picking on her at school, blaming her mom for their problems, etc...). Some of her character's early interactions with Justin, however, are quite funny and allow the audience to embrace her character. Finally, nine-year-old Cameron Finley (of the "Leave It To Beaver" remake) has the least developed of all the characters, but does provide the film with some cute and often funny moments.

    Despite its problems and the fact that we never really get emotionally involved in the story, the film does have several nice scenes and some "down home" charm, and the cast certainly brings its share of built in charisma to the screen. Thus, less than critical moviegoers may find it to their liking. To us, it's just too bad that the film becomes so sullen in the second half and that so many stereotypical moments and characteristics permeate the script, all of which ultimately keep the picture from becoming anything more than a high profile, made for TV movie. We give "Hope Floats" a 4 out of 10.

    Other than the brief talk about the extramarital sexual affair, the bad attitudes of those involved with it, and the resulting tense family moments, there's not much else to object to in this film. Birdee does appear to be somewhat drunk in one scene, some arguing and shouting occurs among the three generations of women, and some mild language is spoken, but that's about it.

  • Birdee, Ramona, Justin and others have beer in front of them at a social dance.
  • Birdee orders a vodka and tonic in a bar and later appears to be drunk.
  • None.
  • Both Bill (the husband) and Connie (the best friend) have both as they've been carrying on an affair for over a year (and decide to tell Birdee on national TV). In addition, Bill has more as he says that he loves his daughter, but that he and Connie need their own time together without her.
  • A student repeatedly makes fun of Bernice and her thick glasses.
  • We learn that Birdee was something of a social snob while in high school and didn't associate with those "lower" than her.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Shut up," and "Four eyes," "Bookworm," and "Popeye" said as childhood taunts.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • 1 possible slang term for breasts (the "t" word), 2 damns, 1 crap, and 6 uses each of "God" and "Oh God," 4 uses of "Oh my God," and 1 use each of "Lord," "For God's sakes," and "My God" as exclamations.
  • A TV talk show host asks Connie, "How long have you been having sex with her husband," and Connie replies that it's been a little over a year. Moments later a comment is made about Connie and Bill having sex on the living room floor.
  • Ramona mentions that Travis' mother is in Hollywood "doing a pilot" (ie. A TV show), but Birdee makes a joke about it and asks "what's he like?"
  • A photo lab manager makes some comments to Birdee about photos of a "questionable nature" that they keep hidden away in a drawer. He tells her that she can look at them, but can't take any of them home. Later, however, Birdee makes a comment about one of the women who's making fun of her marital situation and comments that the woman and her lover should use a Polaroid instead of getting those types of pictures developed.
  • A woman in a bar shows just a tiny bit of cleavage.
  • It appeared that people in a bar smoked.
  • Obviously the affair creates much family strife, not only between the parents, but also including Bernice (whom we see crying in the audience after the big announcement). After that there are many scenes where the daughter is hurt, confused, and angry -- especially toward her mother (In one scene she comments that her mother doesn't take care of her any more and doesn't ask about her life, etc... and in another says that all of this is Birdee's fault).
  • Birdee and Ramona don't have a great daughter/mother relationship and some sparks fly between the two.
  • Birdee goes to see her father who's in a nursing home suffering from the aftermath of a stroke and Alzheimer's (he's alert, but can barely speak and often doesn't know who anyone is).
  • Birdee's mother dies (and there's a funeral scene).
  • Bernice becomes quite distraught when her father won't take her back home with him, and after hearing him state that he wants a divorce from Birdee.
  • The family strife that occurs when it's discovered that one of the parents is having an affair and divorce seems imminent.
  • Angry in the belief that Bernice has been telling her father how poorly she (her mom) is doing, Birdee violently grabs her arm while interrogating the child (but quickly apologizes for doing so).
  • After a classmate repeatedly makes fun of Bernice, she turns around and hits this other girl with her bag. That larger classmate then chases Bernice, catches her, and eventually sits on top of her while pummeling her with her fists. Apparently, however, Bernice isn't hurt.

  • Reviewed May 20, 1998

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