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Bounce Review

-by Andrew Goletz

(some spoilers below)

‘Bounce’ stars real life ex-couple Ben Affleck, as Buddy the ad executive, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Abby the widowed real estate agent. It’s one of those movies that makes you ponder fate and whether you can escape your destiny. When done right, a ‘what if’ movie can be brilliant, like ‘Sliding Doors’, which also stars Paltrow. ‘Bounce’ comes close to the mark, but falls shy of perfection.

During a chance encounter at Chicago’s O’Hare, airport, Buddy meets with Abby’s husband and the two bond as much as you can with someone over the span of a flight delay. A combination of wanting to get in the sack with another new found friend, Mimi (Natasha Henstridge) and his feeling sorry for Abby’s husband (who wants to get back home in time to help his son sell Christmas trees) prompts Buddy to switch tickets with the husband. The plane crashes and Abby’s husband dies on the plane which Buddy should have been on. To add insult and coincidence to the situation, the airline responsible for the crash is on of Buddy’s clients and he is successful for ‘spinning’ the disaster into an emotional ‘we grieve for your loss’ sort of ad campaign that wins a prestigious award.

Buddy’s life is going to hell. The thought of the disaster he escaped, combined with the guilt over advancing his career leads Buddy to alcohol and eventually to rehab. Once he’s back on his feet, Buddy decides to meet the wife of the man he switched tickets with as part of the recovery program. Abby is a restless woman. She still refers to herself as being divorced rather than living with the ‘stigma’ of being a widow. She’s taken up smoking to wean herself off of the nicotine gum she became addicted to, and she’s become a real estate agent with no faith in her abilities.

Buddy first approaches Abby under the guise of wanting to look at property for his company. Because this is a movie, Buddy can’t tell Abby who he is right away. He has to wait until he becomes so close to Abby that he starts to go on family outings with her 2 sons. Of course, they eventually fall in love and you know the other shoe is about to drop at any moment.

Ben Affleck continues to grow as an actor. Where as he was once Matt Damon’s smart ass friend in ‘Good Will Hunting’ and the bad ass is ‘Mallrats’, he’s finally not afraid to let his guard down and his emotions out. Gwyneth bounces back from an embarrassing effort in ‘Duets’ to another emotionally charged, selfless performance here. The chemistry between Ben and Gwyneth is strong. Buddy is immediately taken by Abby and Abby is charmed by Buddy. Even the two young actors who play Abby’s boys are realistic in their immediate apprehension of Buddy, which slowly grows into trust. 

What I really enjoyed with the film was the whole aspect of second chances and destiny. Buddy is only in Abby’s life because he switched tickets with her husband. Abby’s husband died, which resulted in the romance between she and Buddy. At one point in the film Abby poses the question herself. By falling in love with Buddy, is she really, in essence choosing him over her husband? It’s an intriguing question that I wish was deal with a little more in depth.

If there is any fault with ‘Bounce’, it comes from the pacing and the mandatory plot twist. I don’t recall any romantic movie where boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love and then live happily ever after. There must be a moment of conflict in between for the two to overcome in order to show just how strong the relationship is. With this film, you know the moment to watch for is going to be when Abby finds out just who Buddy really is. Whether she stumbles onto the answer or Buddy confesses to her is the mystery. The constant teasing of when the moment of revelation will occur goes on for a little too long, which slows the movie just more than it needs.

Just once, I would have liked to see a character remain true to the script and not wait until the last possible moment to reveal their secrets. How satisfying it could have been to have Buddy tell Abby the truth before she found out for herself. There could have still been conflict and the set up for an emotional resolution, but it would have been done so in an honest, unique way. Here, like in most movies, Abby finds out the truth before Buddy can reveal it to her. Worse yet, she does so off-screen. The audience, and Buddy, finds out that she knows, but we don’t see that moment, which should have been the emotional climax of the film.

So instead of a groundbreaking film in which fate, relationships and love are handled seriously and realistically, we get a fairly ordinary love story with a few twists and turns powered by a brilliant cast. ‘Bounce’ is a good film. You’re drawn into the characters and Ben and Gwyneth really make you want to care for Buddy and Abby, which is perhaps the most important aspect of the film. But it could have been a lot more.

Review: 3 Griffins  (out of 4)

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