Anywhere But Here

on November 12, 1999 by Susan Green
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A big generalization: Sons want to get closer to their remote fathers, while daughters grow up hoping to distance themselves from emotionally demanding mothers. "Anywhere But Here" pushes many of those parent-child buttons in presenting a needy single mom who clings to her child with desperation.
Susan Sarandon portrays Adele August, a sort of flamboyant Auntie Mame figure whose volatility alienates teenaged Ann (Natalie Portman), particularly when they relocate to Southern California. The two have left their small Wisconsin hometown, where the adult was restless but the adolescent felt secure with other family members (Shawn Hatosy, Bonnie Bedelia, John Diehl, Eileen Ryan).
Extravagant and prone to giddy escapades, Adele flits from job to job while insisting Ann should audition for movies--something the girl dreads. Ann is a realist both aghast at the insensitivity and drowning in the pathos of a mother she also loves. Disinterested in the attentions of men her own age, the self-deluding Adele courts pain when she mistakes her one-night stand with a stud (Hart Bochner) for true romance. Ann finds a more sustaining connection with Peter (Corbin Allred), a high school sweetheart of a guy. Her true platonic soul mate, however, is a Wisconsin cousin named Benny (Hatosy in a brief but effective appearance).
Direct or Wayne Wang keeps a precise balance, necessary to blend a high-octane performance from Sarandon with an understated one from Portman. As shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, the film looks ravishing. Alvin Sargent's script, based on a Mona Simpson book, captures an intensity that is weakened only by a somewhat weepy conclusion. Much more eloquent is a funeral for one of the characters that features Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You" sung with the kind of fervent conviction that secures a lasting place in the memory. Starring Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Shawn Hatosy, Paul Guilfoyle, Corbin Allred, Hart Bochner, Bonnie Bedelia, Caroline Aaron, John Diehl and Eileen Ryan. Directed by Wayne Wang. Written by Alvin Sargent. Produced by Laurence Mark. A Fox release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for sex-related material. Running time: 114 min
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