Then She Found Me

Then She Found Me

4.0 5

Cast: Bette Midler, Colin Firth


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Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt makes her feature directorial debut with this adaptation of Elinor Lipman's best-selling novel about a Philadelphia schoolteacher (Hunt) whose long-lost birth mother (Bette Midler) reappears at the very moment her daughter is careening into a midlife crisis. Abandoned by her husband (…  See more details below


Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt makes her feature directorial debut with this adaptation of Elinor Lipman's best-selling novel about a Philadelphia schoolteacher (Hunt) whose long-lost birth mother (Bette Midler) reappears at the very moment her daughter is careening into a midlife crisis. Abandoned by her husband (Matthew Broderick) and still grieving the death of her adoptive mother, the emotionally fragile teacher enters into a relationship with the father of one of her students just as her biological mother, an eccentric talk-show host, appears on her doorstep attempting a reconciliation.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Nathan Southern
As a first-time co-writer/director, Helen Hunt carries a strength untouched even by many filmmakers with 20- or 30-year histories in the business: the ability to swiftly navigate her actors through emotionally complex sequences, layered with the behavioral contradictions and uncertainties of real life. Consequently, numerous sequences in Hunt's feature debut, Then She Found Me, flower with a level of ingenuousness that feels astonishingly fresh and open. To put it bluntly, Hunt is an actor's director. That approach to the craft of filmmaking not only saves about 80 percent of the film, but frequently lifts it into the realm of the sublime. Then She Found Me tells the story of April Epner (Hunt), a single Philadelphia-area schoolteacher who was adopted into a Jewish family during infancy. As the picture opens, April marries, and is then promptly jilted by, new husband Ben (Matthew Broderick). She must also contend with the death of her adoptive mother (Lynn Cohen); the sudden appearance of her long-estranged biological mother, Bernice Graves (Bette Midler); and a whirlwind romance with Frank (Colin Firth), the recently divorced dad of two kids from her school. From a filmmaking standpoint, Hunt projects the instincts of a stage director. (This isn't an entirely surprising revelation given her acclaimed involvement in Broadway productions such as the 1998 Lincoln Center revival of Twelfth Night.) In Then She Found Me, the tendency is evident via her liberal use -- particularly near the outset of the film -- of scene-long master shots that focus the director's and viewers' attention solely on the dramatic work and enable us to glimpse key blocking that would be glossed over in close-up. Just witness the wonderful breakup sequence between Ben and April that represents the drama's first major turning point. Hunt takes a scene that could easily have lapsed into contrived melodrama and retains an exclusive focus on the subtle body language of April's pas de deux with Ben, keeping everything in full shot. In terms of their simple physical relationship to one another, the actors lace that sequence with so many ambiguities between the characters that it comes across as breathtakingly original and wholly credible. Because of the way the scene is filmed, in fact, the movie resounds with truth even as the couple lapses into a series of actions that appear to contradict everything that has just transpired; simply from the actors' posturings, we witness a deep-seated level of confusion that accounts for everything else. That stylistic choice alone demonstrates Hunt's directorial maturity, rooted in a supreme confidence in her script, herself as an actress, and her co-stars -- plus a surefire instinct about how to approach the material most effectively. The breakup scene also embodies one of the most vital in the production, because it gives us our first indication of April's most endearing qualities and demonstrates that Hunt's script (which she co-authored with scribes Alice Arlen and Victor Levin) has its finger on the audience's pulse in terms of tone. All we need witness is a single, simple action from April (how many other newlywed wives, merely a few days after their wedding, would respond to a breakup request from their husbands by extending a Kleenex in sympathy?) that makes us feel inclined to empathize with the character, naturally observing and following everything from her point-of-view. That represents the right choice, as it gels perfectly with the perspective and footing of the screenplay -- a screenplay that will dramatize April's arc. On that note, the film indicates April's trajectory from its opening minutes. In the first scene, Hunt recites an age-old Jewish parable about the raw shock that hits when we realize that virtually anyone -- even those who love us dearly and would sacrifice anything for us -- will cruelly let us down in one way or another. That idea represents a kind of foundational thesis for the film, and indeed, the story follows April over a period that brings her to sobering realizations about the potential cruelty of friends, lovers, and relatives. Therein lies the central character shift. On that basis, the film doesn't really score any points for profundity, but its execution of April's gradual disillusionment is a beautiful one. The picture also sports a winning cast, with stellar work from Broderick (ushering in the whiny, spineless, insensitive type he played in You Can Count on Me) and the always-welcome Firth, whose exchanges with Hunt help the film chart soul-mate territory more heart-rendingly (and with greater credibility and depth) than virtually any Hollywood feature of the past several years; the two actors tug at one's heartstrings. Hunt, Levin, and Arlen make an intuitive and brilliant choice (and avoid the Unmarried Woman pitfall of implausible perfection in one character) by giving Firth's character an arresting sequence that enables Frank to profanely vent all of his hostilities, insecurities, and inner rage to April. That scene imparts the character with much-needed dimension by unveiling Frank's flaws; it also puts the couple's relationship through one of two major litmus tests needed to prove its strength. The movie does fall below the bar of perfection, though not in any seriously damning way. As a director, Hunt seems ill-equipped to handle the jovial moments, lines, and scenes that frequently crop up in the film (imparted to no small degree, one guesses, by Arlen's contributions). As Bernice -- a feisty and loud-mouthed, liberal daytime talk-show host who appears to be modeled on Joy Behar -- Midler is apparently supposed to lighten the mood by imparting an element of slightly crass, edgy humor to the story, but for her first three or four appearances, she cuts severely against the grain of the material. One could argue, of course, that this merely represents the character, and to some degree that's true, but Midler takes it too far -- she seems to be playing the material at the wrong speed and stops the film dead in its tracks whenever she pops up. Conceptually speaking, it reminds one of Richard Dreyfuss's performance in Lasse Hallström's brilliant Once Around -- a deliberately grating characterization that grows more palatable over the course of the movie -- but whereas Dreyfuss exists in the same movie as his co-stars from the very first scene, Midler seems to be in a different film altogether. The movie improves dramatically when the character of Bernice eases up and relaxes a little bit. Her wisecracks and witticisms continue throughout even as they soften, and many (if considered independently of the material) are truly hilarious. Yet, unfortunately, Hunt never sets up the jokes in such a way that they deliver much of an impact. (One has to strain to catch everything.) Instead, Hunt, as a director, becomes wholly enmeshed in the dramatic crescendos and decrescendos of the material at the expense of its intrinsic humor. The same applies to the film's few sequences that are basically funny. For example, a bit that has April studying Steve McQueen films to determine if McQueen is her biological father doesn't deliver at all, when it should earn a belly laugh or at least a few chuckles from the audience, and lighten the sobriety of the narrative to boot. Fortunately, in terms of everything positive offered by the film, those lapses feel fairly minor in the final analysis. The only other significant flaw lies in the concluding act. In depicting April's decision about pregnancy (artificial insemination vs. adoption vs. possible impregnation by Frank), the story completely loses coherence. Though one could ostensibly put the pieces together and determine what has happened, the film's final shot still feels much too ambiguous given everything that has preceded it, and demands additional clarification. Overall, Then She Found Me represents a pleasant surprise and speaks volumes about Hunt's directorial intuition.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Velocity / Thinkfilm
Region Code:

Special Features

Director's commentary with Helen Hunt; Cast interviews and behind-the-scenes footage; Theatrical trailer

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Helen Hunt April Epner
Bette Midler Bernice Graves
Colin Firth Frank Harte
Matthew Broderick Ben,Benjamin 'Ben' Green
Ben Shenkman Dr. Freddy Epner
Lynn Cohen Trudy Epner
John Benjamin Hickey Alan
Salman Rushdie Dr. Masani
Daisy Tahan Ruby
Tommy Nelson Jimmy Ray
Stephanie Yankwitt Stacey
Maggie Siff Lily,Actor
Lillias White Sheila
Davide Callegati Gianni
Robert LuPone Ted

Technical Credits
Helen Hunt Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Alice Arlen Screenwriter
Sarah Arnott Associate Producer
Stephen Beatrice Production Designer
Howard Behar Executive Producer
Moon Blauner Associate Producer
Will Cantler Casting
Peter Donahue Cinematographer
Jeff Geoffray Executive Producer
Louise Goodsill Executive Producer
Ken Ishii Sound/Sound Designer
Walter Josten Executive Producer
Ralph Kamp Executive Producer
Pamela Koffler Producer
Victor Levin Executive Producer,Screenwriter
David Mansfield Score Composer
Matthew Myers Co-producer
Katie Roumel Producer
Chip Signore Asst. Director,Executive Producer
Connie Tavel Producer
Bernie Telsey Casting
Dale Vaccari Casting
Christine Vachon Producer
John Wells Executive Producer
Pam Wise Editor
Donna Zakowska Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Then She Found Me
1. Opening Sequence [5:09]
2. I Don't Want This [8:25]
3. Someone From Your Past [11:11]
4. Your Father [8:11]
5. Never Happier [4:26]
6. Hi There [5:25]
7. I'm Begging You [7:24]
8. A Wonderful Time [7:39]
9. Are You Pregnant? [5:29]
10. Like Family [7:36]
11. In Trouble [6:44]
12. Help With This [4:56]
13. Supper [7:24]
14. A Prayer [3:42]
15. Where's Your Dad [1:51]
16. End Credits [4:39]


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Then She Found Me 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In a featurette on the DVD release version of THEN SHE FOUND ME writer (with Alice Arlen and Victor Levin) /producer/director Helen Hunt shares a ten year journey to have a film made of a novel by Elinor Lipman. Her cast shares in the very sentimental story of Hunt's devotion and seemingly endless charisma and abilities. The explanation for making this budget film are in many ways more successful than the film, a work the cast seems determined to classify as a comedy but a work that is far more a human drama. April Epner (Helen Hunt) is married to fellow schoolteacher Ben Green (Matthew Broderick) and longs to have a baby before her advancing age prevents her dream. April was adopted as an infant by a Jewish couple who subsequently gave birth to April's brother Freddy (Ben Shenkman): April has always longed to have been Freddy's biological equal, wondering what it would feel like NOT to be adopted. April's busy life implodes: Ben has decided he doesn't like his life and leaves April, April's mother dies, April meets Frank (Colin Firth) a recently divorced writer and father of two children, and April is contacted by a man who can put April in touch with her birth mother - popular TV talk show hostess Bernice Graves (Bette Midler). And if these turns of events weren't traumatic enough, April discovers that she has become pregnant by Ben and Ben is unsure whether he can handle the restructuring of his life to accommodate April. Cautiously April and Frank begin a rather tenuous courtship which is almost immediately threatened by April's discovery of her pregnant state. April and Bernice meet, exchange backgrounds, and make pacts to test their biologic relationship. How each of these characters makes promises that eventually damage each other and then resolve in unexpected ways becomes a study of the meaning of love and compassion among fragile human beings. While not a satisfying story on every level and a film too cluttered with inconvenient editing choices, the cast is strong and obviously committed, and the story (neither a comedy or a drama but a mixture of the two) tests credibility. But there are some fine moments and the lessons in human behavior are worth examining. Not a great movie but a strong little small budget film. Grady Harp
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