[Screen It]


(2000) (Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd) (PG-13)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
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Mild None Mild None Heavy
Smoking Tense Family
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Drama: Over a span of several years, a poor teenager tries to find happiness and love in the small town where she gave birth to her fatherless daughter in the local Wal-Mart.
Novalee Nation (NATALIE PORTMAN) is a pregnant seventeen-year-old girl who's leaving Tennessee with her white trash musician of a boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens (DYLAN BRUNO), en route to California. Stopping at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart for a bathroom break, Novalee then returns to the parking lot only to find that Willy Jack has abandoned her there.

Broke, increasingly pregnant and with nowhere to go, Novalee covertly spends the nights at the Wal-Mart. During the days, she meets Sister Husband (STOCKARD CHANNING), a recovering alcoholic who mistakes her for someone else and asks daily forgiveness for fornicating with her boyfriend, Mr. Sprock (RICHARD JONES). She also meets Moses Whitecotten (KEITH DAVID), a local photographer, as well as Forney Hull (JAMES FRAIN), a young man who dropped out of college to care for his alcoholic sister, Mary Elizabeth (MARGARET ANN HOARD), and run the local library.

Six weeks later, Novalee eventually gives birth to a daughter she names Americus, and soon meets hospital nurse Lexie Coop (ASHLEY JUDD), a woman who's no stranger to being a single mother herself. After Novalee's mother (SALLY FIELD) takes off with the money she received from Wal-Mart and others, the young mother moves in with Sister Husband, gets a job at Wal-Mart and starts to rebuild her life.

As Willy Jack pursues a singer/songwriter career with musical agent Ruth Meyers (JOAN CUSACK), Novalee must contend with the various hardships, joy and even love that life throws her way.

Those who are fans of the original novel or of someone in the cast just might, but it doesn't otherwise seem that many kids will be flocking to see this one.
For intense thematic material, language, and sexual content.
  • NATALIE PORTMAN plays a poor and pregnant teenager who secretly lives in a Wal-Mart after being abandoned there by her boyfriend. After delivering her child, she later worries about being pregnant again, later sleeps with another man (years later), but does finally get her life together to some degree. She also briefly uses some profanity.
  • ASHLEY JUDD plays a nurse who befriends Novalee, perhaps just because she's an older version of the teen (shacking up with the wrong guys and getting pregnant).
  • STOCKARD CHANNING plays a religious woman who takes in Novalee, helps raise her daughter, and always asks forgiveness from God for "fornicating" with Mr. Sprock.
  • JAMES FRAIN plays the local librarian who dropped out of college to care for his debilitated sister and eventually falls for Novalee (and beds her).
  • DYLAN BRUNO plays Novalee's white trash boyfriend who leaves her, pregnant and practically broke, in a small town where she knows no one. He also uses some profanity and later becomes addicted to booze/pills after his music career fails.
  • JOAN CUSACK plays a surly, small-time record producer who helps Willy Jack's career, drinks and uses strong profanity.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated drama. Profanity is rated as heavy due to 1 use of the "f" word, while other profanities and some colorful phrases are also uttered. Various characters have varying degrees of bad attitudes, including a child molester, some infant kidnapers, and a white trash creep who abandons his pregnant, teenage girlfriend in a small town where she knows no one and must fend for herself (as well as deliver her baby).

    While their encounter that led to her pregnancy isn't seen (and others occur off camera involving that teen, while an older, single mother repeatedly gets pregnant from her various boyfriends), we do see glimpses of a later one between two major characters (although it's brief and doesn't feature nudity or anything graphic), as well as some brief fooling around by others and a woman who twice asks for forgiveness from God for "fornicating" with her boyfriend.

    A few scenes may be suspenseful (or even downright frightening) to some viewers, including a tornado scene where a mother and her young daughter are nearly sucked out of storm cellar into the raging funnel above them.

    Some drinking occurs and several supporting characters are noted as being alcoholics (we see one drunk or high), while a bit of smoking is also present. Violence is rated as heavy due to an off-screen death and destruction caused by a tornado, a child molester who apparently raped or tried to rape a woman's kids and then beat her (all off-camera although we see her somewhat bloodied from the encounter), other fighting and a man losing his legs after being run over by a train (off-camera).

    Should the above brief summary not allay your concerns about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home who may wish to see the film, we suggest that you take a closer look at our individual categories for more detailed content information.

    For those concerned with bright flashes of light on screen, some of that occurs during a nighttime thunderstorm, but it's not of the quick, repetitive variety.

  • One of Novalee and Willy Jack's friends drinks a beer.
  • Sister Husband is a member of AA (she gives Novalee an appointment book and tells her that if she's not an alcoholic, she won't think those scheduled meetings are for her).
  • We see that Forney's sister is debilitated due to a (previous and/or present) drinking problem that he briefly discusses with Novalee.
  • A lawyer talks about being a former drunk and being passed out.
  • Willy Jack and a record producer have drinks.
  • Ruth has a drink while Willy Jack has a beer.
  • Some baseball/softball players drink beer.
  • People have champagne at a wedding.
  • A woman tells Willy Jack (who appears rather drunk/high as he stumbles about) that he needs something else inside him other than pills and whiskey. We then see him carrying a bottle of booze.
  • We see a puddle of amniotic fluid on the floor indicating that Novalee's water has just broken.
  • Some blood runs down Lexie's face after she's apparently been beaten.
  • Willy Jack has a little bit of a bloody cut on his head after drunkenly stumbling into a railroad car.
  • Willy Jack leaves Novalee at a Wal-Mart, pregnant and with no friends and very little money.
  • Some may see Novalee having some of both for covertly spending many nights at a local Wal-Mart (and using their supplies and eating their food), although she does keep an "I Owe Wal-Mart" journal of her expenses.
  • Willy Jack throws his empty soda cup down through a hole in his car (littering).
  • We learn that a 14-year-old that Willy Jack picks up had just robbed/shoplifted from a convenience store.
  • Forney initially seems rude to Novalee in the library, but he turns out to be a good guy.
  • Novalee's mother, who hasn't see Novalee in years, shows up, takes the five hundred dollars that Wal-Mart gave her, promises she'll help raise the newborn, and then hits the road with the money, never to return.
  • Novalee's mother smokes in a hospital room and then puts out her cigarette on the hospital floor.
  • A couple kidnaps Novalee's infant for religious reasons.
  • We learn that one of Lexie's boyfriends molested/raped her children and then beat her when she discovered that.
  • The scenes where Novalee screams from labor pains at night in the Wal-Mart and stumbles about might be unsettling to some viewers.
  • Novalee sees a large tornado approaching her and runs down into a storm cellar. Worried about someone else, she doesn't close the door and goes back outside (where she's nearly hit by a large piece of flying debris), only to find that she can't close the door when the tornado gets closer. As such, she finds herself barely holding onto a step (that's slowly pulling away from the rest) as she's nearly sucked out and into the funnel. Americus then gets up, her teddy bear is sucked out and the same nearly happens to her but Novalee manages to catch her before that happens (while still "floating" feet high from the suction).
  • Novalee gets a call from one of Lexie's kids indicating that something's wrong, so Novalee races over there to find the place in disarray and Lexie upset and apparently beaten (with some blood running down her face).
  • A drunken man falls onto some railroad tracks just as a train approaches at night (although we don't see the impact, his legs are severed from the encounter).
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Sh*thead," "What the hell's the matter with you?" "Screw 'em," "Jeez," "Shut up," "Shut the hell up," "Cheap, big ass tramp," "Sorry ass," "Freaking" and "Butt hole."
  • Novalee secretly makes the Wal-Mart her nighttime home by hiding until everyone has left and then spending the night and eating their food, etc.
  • Willy Jack throws his empty soda cup down through a hole in his car (littering).
  • None.
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music occurs in several scenes.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word, 11 "s" words, 3 slang terms using male genitals ("pr*ck"), 9 hells, 7 damns, 2 asses, 1 crap, 1 S.O.B., 4 uses each of "Oh God" and "Jesus," 3 of "Oh my God," 2 each of "God," "Jesus Christ" and "Lord" and 1 use each of "For Christ's sakes," "My God," "Oh Lord" and what sounded like "G-damn" as exclamations.
  • Although we don't see any activity between them, Novalee and Willy Jack obviously had sex since she's pregnant.
  • Willy Jack picks up what turns out to be a 14-year-old girl (who looks older and he doesn't know her age). While driving along, he takes her money and shoves it down the front of his pants, telling her if she wants it back, she'll have to come over there and get it. She then says that maybe she will and he replies that she might just get herself a big surprise (innuendo) if she does. She starts to kiss him on his neck, but they're pulled over by the police and nothing else happens.
  • While praying before their meal, Sister Husband states, "We ask forgiveness, Lord, for the fornication that Mr. Sprock and me have committed again this afternoon." She then tells Novalee that Mr. Sprock has emphysema and makes "that noise whenever he exerts himself" (implying sex).
  • Lexie admits that she had her first child when she was fifteen and then had many more from other men (we see her pregnant several times). She later gives a double entendre about a man having a problem with his dipstick and that she helped him pull it out.
  • Giving another prayer, Sister Husband asks forgiveness "for the fornication that Mr. Sprock and me committed this morning on this very table."
  • Although we don't see their encounter, Novalee worries that she might be pregnant after having sex with a local mechanic (but it turns out she isn't). When Lexie asks if he used anything (meaning a contraceptive), Novalee replies that he used her. Lexie then states that the man she's seeing is "as sterile as a cotton ball" due to having the mumps that "went down to his manly areas." When Novalee expresses concern over that, Lexie states that the man is just "shooting blanks."
  • Ruth gives Willy Jack a roll of quarters to put down his pants to make it appear as if he has a big bulge down there while performing onstage.
  • Not realizing who she is, Willy Jack stares at Novalee's butt (as does the camera) as she passes by.
  • Willy Jack makes out with a woman in a hotel hallway (she feels his butt) and they go into his room, but Ruth is there and makes the woman (who shows some cleavage) leave.
  • After Novalee states that she forget to get Forney a gift for watching Americus while she was out of town, Lexie suggestively wiggles her own body stating that's what Novalee could give him.
  • Novalee and Forney end up making out and we then see a few random and varied (but not explicit) shots of them fooling around and/or presumably having sex (we see them apparently in bed kissing, his hands on her bare back and the two of them presumably nude under the sheets after sex). Later, he asks if she made love to him because she felt sorry for him (she says no).
  • Willy Jack smokes several times, while Novalee's mother smokes and a miscellaneous man has an unlit cigar in his mouth.
  • Novalee's boyfriend and father of her baby, leaves her at a Wal-Mart to fend for herself.
  • Novalee's estranged mother briefly visits her, but then disappears just as quickly as she appeared.
  • Novalee panics and frets when her infant daughter is kidnapped (but Americus is found rather quickly).
  • A character's sister dies.
  • Teen pregnancy.
  • Women who always fall for the wrong men and end up pregnant from them.
  • A young, and underage woman accepts a ride from Willy Jack at night (with him being a total stranger).
  • Forney's dropping out of college to care for his sick sister.
  • Tornados and seeking shelter during them.
  • Child molesters.
  • Some cops violently push Willy Jack down onto the hood of his car while arresting him (after he tries to run away from them).
  • Forney runs and breaks through a panel of sheet glass to get into the Wal-Mart to help Novalee deliver her baby.
  • When a hospital worker tells Novalee's mother that visiting hours are over, she grabs him by the crotch and quickly changes his mind.
  • Willy Jack's jail mate throws something at him, causing Willy Jack to run up, grab this man, and pull him from his bunk to the floor where the two struggle and exchange some punches.
  • Forney pushes a cop backwards (and gets arrested for doing so) to allow Novalee to run up to her recently found infant who had been kidnapped.
  • Some people fight on the dance floor where Willy Jack performs and one of his guitarists is hit by a thrown chair.
  • A wedding photo shows the bride being punched in the face.
  • Although we don't see the actual deaths or destruction, a tornado kills at least one person and destroys a great deal of property (we do see the aftermath).
  • We see a woman being thrown out of a hotel room and hitting the hallway wall (after Ruth tosses her out - not seen but played for laughs).
  • Ruth punches Willy Jack in the face.
  • We learn that one of Lexie's boyfriends molested/raped her children and then beat her when she discovered that (she has blood running down her face from their unseen encounter).
  • A drunken man falls onto some railroad tracks just as a train approaches at night (although we don't see the impact, his legs are severed from the encounter).

  • Reviewed April 22, 2000 / Posted April 28, 2000

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