My God, Gwyneth Paltrow is thin. That poor, poor woman. She looks like she’s made out of clothes hangers twisted into the shape of a cocktail waitress.
It ain’t healthy. If she ate a peanut, you could watch it move through her body like a mouse inside a snake. Her shoulders couldn’t support the weight of those pads in the ugly white-collared dresses at ZCMI. She could be the anti-Santa Claus, easily sliding down all those modern 6-inch chimneys to deliver bottled water, individually wrapped salads and jars of Dexatrim tablets to all the good little boys and girls.
You’ll have plenty of time to write your own hilarious ain’t-Gwyneth-thin banter when you see Bounce, an idiosyncratic but depressingly weeperific romance made for Miramax by writer-director Don Roos and starring the studio’s royal couple, Ben Affleck and Fish Stick Paltrow. Concern for the poor, poor woman’s health could be the primary thing that sticks with you from this picture, which flails admirably against the banality of its underlying story but eventually falters, leaving only a mildly amusing dramedy.
Affleck is Buddy, a hotshot advertising executive who gives up his seat on a plane to Greg (Tony Goldwyn), a guy he’s never met, so that he can score with Natasha Henstridge. The plane crashes, and Buddy’s high-flying world plummets with it. Convinced he killed Greg, Buddy drinks a metric ton of booze before joining AA and setting out to make the requisite amends, in which he includes a trip to do something financially nice for Greg’s widow.
The sparks should fly here, and Roos writes some excellent scenes between the two leads, but neither of his actors is particularly convincing as a put-upon soul struggling against a really nasty turn of fate. It might be the fact that Ben and Gwynnie are both really big stars; it’s difficult for an audience to accept that these two incredibly lucky people have ever lost anything more important than the second set of keys to the boathouse in the Hamptons.
Affleck’s roots as an actor will always be in the Kevin Smith school of asshole cynicism, so he’s still tough to believe in earnest roles in movies like this and Armageddon. You keep expecting him to roll his eyes at the camera when Gwyneth isn’t looking.
And then there’s Gwynnie, who dyed her hair brown for the role because she thought she’d look more like a housewife. Trouble is, she looks like a housewife on a hunger strike against people who wear white after Labor Day; she looks and feels like a movie star, not a heartbroken single mother. Both stars are great at reading lines, but that’s all they are: stars reading lines. The ineffable acting transformation just doesn’t take place, and in a reality-based drama like this, that’s deadly.
Roos is a longtime studio screenwriting grind (Diabolique, Single White Female) whose directorial debut was the mean, bitter and gloriously funny The Opposite of Sex. As in that film, Roos has some unusual and interesting ideas about tweaking a genre in Bounce. He writes long, wordy scenes that help build characters in a way many screenwriters don’t have time for, and he loves small touches of detail that convey personality in ways words—and his actors—can’t.
Despite Roos’ yeoman-like attempts to somehow bend and stretch a standard melodrama into new and interesting knots, we can’t shake the feeling we’ve seen all this before, only in less fancy trimmings. Stripped of Roos’ clever contrivances and the two megastars’ relationship-within-a-relationship intrigue, this is simply a star-crossed romance that travels a well-worn path.
Bounce keeps us interested, but it can’t keep us guessing. And oh yeah, Gwyneth is thin.
Bounce (PG-13) HH1/2 Directed by Don Roos. Starring Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow and Tony Goldwyn.