CINEMA SIGNALS

. "Bounce"

A plane is held over; three strangers come together for a drink while waiting -- Greg Janello, a married man anxious to get home to his wife and kids, Buddy Amaral, a single man who is a bit of a playboy (is his name a play on "amoral"?), and Mimi, a beautiful enough woman to be a prize for any man. The playboy (Ben Affleck in a signature characterization) is virtually invited for a night of lust by Mimi (Natasha Henstridge) so he generously offers his ticket to Janello (Tony Goldwyn). It's on a more direct route, so the offer is accepted. But, the plane goes down and all on board are killed.

A recipe for a life of guilt for a playboy? What does he do? A year after the crash he takes time out from his troubles at his advertising agency (brought on by trying to deal with the crash) and looks Abby Janello, the wife of the married man up (Gwyneth Paltrow, as plain as a brown wig can make her). It's apparent that laying this to rest is a priority issue for him and that part of that scheme was going straight with the surviving widow.

But, in a coping mechanism, she lies about the death, claiming that she and her husband were divorced. This cuts his more honorable intentions off and provides him a cool way to put off the big truth. He finds another way to make amends. As he's a part owner of the ad agency and they're looking for new offices and, as she's a real estate agent, he signs her as the agent and she winds up with a fat commission -- one large enough to secure her and her two boys' future.

But payback doesn't go as simply as designed. The lady develops an attraction for the thoughtful stranger and soon, completely unaware of his complicity in her husband's death, is putting some moves on him. He resists but finds himself equally attracted. The issue of the movie then becomes how to allow love to blossom while he tries to find a way to tell her that the tragedy is a factor in the relationship.

Perhaps a bigger issue for the writer/director (Don Roos) is giving Buddy sufficient sympathy to make us want to stay in our seats. Affleck's essential personality gives him a lock on the playboy aspect of his character. The challenge is to convey a deep enough sensitivity to make plausible her attraction to him beyond her obvious loneliness. Despite his bout with alcoholism and withdrawal with the aid of AA, he doesn't quite pull it off but his surface charm and easy-to-like accessibility allows you to go with the plot. That's more palatable than walking out on it this far along in the movie.

Bottom line, Roos and his cast didn't quite pull it off. They don't turn awkwardness into "involving". The title is apparently a reference to a "comeback" quality but it's a stretch. At first I thought it might refer to someone being "bounced" off the airplane (no one was) or "bumped" or bounced by the airplane (didn't happen either). The title might be more applicable as "bouncy" but I'm glad they didn't try that. Point is, if the title is that confusing or questionable, it might be a sign of something else that ain't working.

Estimated cost: $35,000,000. Projected U.S. boxoffice: $40,000,000.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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