3/18/07

Return to Me (2000)

David Duchovny (Bob), Minnie Driver (Grace), Bonnie Hunt (Megan), David Alan Grier (Charlie)

Directed by Bonnie Hunt

Plot: A man falls in love with a woman who was the transplant recipient of his late wife's heart.

Perhaps because Duchovny made this film too near the Mulder years, I expected something totally different upon my initial viewing. But it really is a sweet and entertaining story.

Bonnie Hunt, who is good friends with Duchovny, did not originally consider him for the role. Even she thought of him as being too Mulderish for his own romantic comedy good. Luckily, she changed her mind. His character, Bob, is goofy, charming, and vulnerable. Granted, Mulder was goofy, charming, and vulnerable on occasion, but mostly he just stared and chased aliens. Mulder's take on romance never rose above porn, but here, Duchovny stretches himself with scenes of intense pain -- dang, when he's lying on the floor crying for his dead wife! -- and lighthearted happiness. Good stuff.

The backbone of this film, and why it stands out from a zillion others, is the ensemble of supporting characters. Just now, I can think of only one other rom-com with an equitable array of amusing side characters, and that's While You Were Sleeping -- you know, back when Sandra Bullock played to her strength and Bill Pullman had a career. Poor dears.

Here, the family of Minnie Driver's character, Grace, is an important part of the story. Bob, the new widow, is integrated into the fold of their love just as he falls in love with Grace. He has a ready-made support network, which is nearly as important to his emotional recovery as romantic love. Carroll O'Connor, as Grace's grandpa, and Robert Loggia, as his brother-in-law, join Hunt and Jim Belushi as Grace's best friends. Too many romances highlight the couple as if they exist in a vacuum. Hunt reminds us that love needs to come from love -- that the some of the best-adjusted (and funniest) couples come from supportive, loving families.

The ending is beyond twee, and Belushi unfortunately wound up with his own show because of this role, but otherwise Return to Me is a lovely film that, for me, proved better the second time around.

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