Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:45 - Released 11/17/00

As most folks know, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck were once a couple. Perhaps this makes it easier for them to do a romance film together; they can just act like they used to...with three cameras, 20 lighting and sound instruments, and 75 people in the room. We've all done that. Whether it was easy or not, they seem to have pulled it off in Bounce, a film written and directed by Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) about a man who helps a woman recover from the death of her husband, even though he is indirectly responsible for the man's death.

Affleck plays Buddy Amaral, a stereotypically crass advertising agent with a stewardess in every terminal, who recently closed a lucrative deal with a major airline. Just before boarding his flight home, he trades tickets with another man (Tony Goldwyn) so that he can spend the night with an attractive woman he met in the airport lounge (Natasha Henstridge). A few hours later, the plane he was supposed to be on crashes and kills all on board. As a result of this, he sinks into an alcoholic abyss that nearly costs him his job, but eventually seeks help and joins A.A. As one of the 12 steps of his recovery program, he must make amends to everyone he has hurt, so he seeks out the widow of the man with whom he exchanged airline tickets that fateful night. It has been a year since the crash and Abby (Paltrow) has begun to pick up the pieces of her life, but her son Scott (Alex D. Linz) is still bitter. Upon meeting, the two hit it off and their friendship develops into romance, with Buddy helping to bring Scott out of his shell. The only trouble is, Buddy hasn't told Abby yet why he came into her life.

This is very much a Hollywood formula romance, resembling (but not nearly as improbable as) last year's Harrison Ford/Kristin Scott Thomas vehicle Random Hearts. While Roos's story is full of clichés (the big secret, the boy who can't accept the new man in his mom's life, the woman who complains of being treated differently since the tragedy, etc., etc.), his understated dialogue helps to counteract this, and Paltrow and Affleck are obviously comfortable together and easily able to make us believe everything about what they're doing. Roos sees and capitalizes on their chemistry, even to the point of sending much of the supporting actors' work to the cutting room floor. Some nice acting is done by Joe Morton and Johnny Galecki as Buddy's boss and insubordinate fellow alcoholic employee, respectively, but if you blink you might miss them. Roos knows how popular his two leads are right now, and he's not going to deprive his audience of one second of their screen time, even if the result is a slightly undersupported story.

Bounce is an example of how the right couple of actors can take a mediocre story and make it into a truly enjoyable film. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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