Anywhere But Here
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I first rented Anywhere But Here because of Natalie Portman. Having seen her work in The Professional, Where the Heart Is, and Star Wars: Episode I, I knew that Portman was destined for stardom. In these early works, she has shown her range in acting skills and her ability to work in any genre. From action to drama to comedy, it would seem that Natalie Portman can do it all, and exceedingly well. I had no doubt that I was going to witness a gifted performer, but was unsure as to the content of the story. Who knew that this would become one of my favorite movies? And so, when I received the DVD version of the movie as a gift, I quickly popped it into the DVD player and watched it yet again.
The story revolves around Ann, a quiet, sensitive realist, and her loud, overbearing dreamer of a mother, Adele. As the movie opens, we discover that Adele and Ann are moving from Bay City, Wisconsin to Los Angeles, California. Adele has high hopes for her and her daughter. She had always wanted more for herself than what she considers to be a lowly existence in a small, go-nowhere sort of town. In moving to Los Angeles, Adele hopes to escape the doldrums of Bay City and encounter an exciting, happy life among the stars. Ann, however, doesnít agree with her motherís view of their Bay City home and hates the idea of moving away from her beloved family. As a realist, Ann canít understand Adeleís dreamy view of their current situation Ė homeless, unemployed, strangers in a strange town.
At first, it would seem that things are going Adeleís way. She makes a friend in a real estate agent that finds her a home, lands a job in the Los Angeles school district, and meets a handsome orthodontist. Ann very slowly adjusts to life in L.A., but yearns for her simpler existence in Bay City. Also lingering in Annís mind is her motherís promise that, once they got to the west coast, they would contact Annís father, who abandoned them when she was four. Unlike her usual realistic self, Ann finds herself mirroring her motherís dreaminess in this instance. She believes that once she speaks with her father, he will come rescue her from her life with Adele. It is at once evident that, while Ann truly loves her mother, she has difficulty dealing with her motherís mood swings and the total lack of irresponsibility she often displays.
Adeleís mood swings are evident throughout the movie, leading the viewer to believe that Adele suffers from manic depression as we witness her extreme highs and lows. Also a problem is Adeleís propensity for deep attachment. Ann hardly understands why her mother believes that every heartache, every down-turn, can be cured with ice cream. Nor does she understand her motherís flashy, overbearing and often selfish ways or her complete attachment to her daughter. Often times, Ann feels as if she is the mother to the adult Adele. Ann yearns for escape, but it is long in coming, and the resentment builds. When tragedy strikes and the two return home, Ann discovers that she no longer fits in the city she once called home. Ann realizes that she no longer fits anywhere and decides that in order to find herself, she must detach herself from her mother, getting as far away from her as possible or ďAnywhere But HereĒ.
Portmanís performance as Ann is incredible as always. She is completely believable in her role, and the viewer finds himself rooting for her to find a solution to her growing dilemma. Susan Sarandon is impressive as Adele, the flashy dreamer without a clue. The audience begins to despise her ways until she finds a way to redeem herselfÖnot by much, but there is an act of redemption there. We discover the strength of Adeleís attachment to her daughter and the difficulty she has in letting go of the one thing sheís attached to. The soundtrack, featuring songs by K.D. Lang, Sarah McLaughlin, LeAnn Rimes, Lisa Leob, Bif Naked and more, is perfectly suited to the movie. The cinematography is incredible, and why shouldnít it be, considering the area being filmed.
As someone who has visited Los Angeles in recent years, it was nice to see some of the very familiar sites of the area, such as the beaches, the soaring palm trees, the beautifully modern architecture, and the modern art. Observing the locale of this movie brought back happy memories. The story itself is touching on a personal level and I wholly related to the daughterís plight, which is probably why this movie holds a special place in my heart. Iím fairly certain that anyone would be able to relate to this movie on a personal level in some way. Who hasnít, as a teenager, thought their parent to be overbearing and embarrassing? Who hasnít dreamed of escaping their parents and becoming independent?
The DVD version of Anywhere But Here contains very little in bonus features. You can view the movie in wide or full screen version, in English, Spanish or French. You can also view the Original Theatrical Trailer, which is just as entertaining as the movie. More so, when you realize that there are deleted scenes featured in this trailer. Makes you wonder why there is no such Deleted Scenes feature offered in the DVD.
Irregardless of the lack of special features available, the Anywhere But Here DVD is a perfect edition to anyoneís movie collection. Excellent acting and a well thought out story combined with a terrific soundtrack and brilliant cinematography, Anywhere But Here comes highly recommended by this reviewer!