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IN SHORT: Major wetworks from an incredibly well written, very funny script
I feel like I should be in one of the old Irish Spring soap commercials saying "but I like it too!..."
So here we have architectural engineer Bob Rueland (David Duchovny), a year beyond the death of his wife Elizabeth (Joely Richardson), working at a feverish pace to finish construction of a habitat for the great apes of Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. Her dream. His best friend, zoo vet Charlie Johnson (David Alan Grier) is doing the best he can to get Bob back into the swing of things but Bob, like his dog Mel, misses Elizabeth mightily. On one of these blind date fix-ups leads Bob to a table at O'Reilly's Italian Restaurant. [insert rimshot here]
Waiting tables at O'Reilly's is the equally shy of the world Grace (Minnie Driver). Grace's backstory is just as mournful. She'd been bed-ridden since age 14 with a heart condition and, literally at death's door, received a life-saving heart transplant. A year ago. At the prodding of best friends Megan (Bonnie Hunt) and Megan's husband Joe (James Belushi), Grace is only beginning to think about getting out into the dating world. She's just as happy serving in her grandpa's restaurant, which brings us back to Bob and a meeting that comes and goes in the blink of an eye.
But Grace has this unusual feeling . . . Put two and two together. I'll wait . . .
Now that all the teenboys have finished cursing and left us, and the rest of you have figured out the what but not the how, we will point out that there are strict rules keeping donor and donee apart in these matters and that Grace and Bob have absolutely no idea of what's in store. Grace is incredibly self-conscious about the ten inch scar running down her chest. Marty is still pining for his lost love. It's a perfectly serious relationship with no emphasis on sex until close to the endgame, perfectly in keeping with the film soundtrack of songs by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett and its supporting cast of old geezers led by Grace's grandpa (Carroll O'Connor).
As a nod to a long ago television series, O'Connor and pals get stuck in a doorway. Nothing subtle about that gag but it's great background to an intelligent, funny and heart-wrenching script that gets where you know it's supposed to, but doesn't do what you expect it to. I know the script is also incredibly funny, 'cuz I cracked a couple of smiles while everyone else was rolling (this before, during and after the tears). I don't which of the writers (which includes actor/director Hunt) knew that those of us that are broken (see the History of Cranky for more) refer to ourselves that way -- no one with any sense of decorum or manners that isn't would do so -- and when Minnie Driver's character uses the phrase, well, I was thrown.
But not enough that I didn't laugh at the jokes. Nope. When the inevitable comes, and this story is inevitable from the get-go, let's just applaud the fact that it doesn't happen the way you'd guess and neither of the characters reacts the way you'd expect. What took it's time as a standard old fashioned romance all of a sudden shifts into wetworks mode. A femme friend of mine was gushing (my ex would have drowned in her own tears) and even ol' Cranky got misty.
Driver and Duchovny aren't all that funny, despite the commercials, but there is chemistry. The best gags come from the supporting cast, particularly from O'Connor, from a way out of shape (and proud of it) Belushi and his interplay with "wife" Hunt.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Return To Me, he would have paid...
Substantial laughs on top of a superior chick flick. Something for everyone in this one.
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