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Anywhere But Here

Starring Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman
Screenplay by Alvin Sargent
Based on the book by Mona Simpson
Directed by Wayne Wang

IN SHORT: Definitely for Cranky's mom. [Rated [PG-13], 113 minutes]

Anywhere but Bay City, Wisconsin is where 40-something Adele August (Susan Sarandon) wants to be. More attractive to her is Beverly Hills, California where everything is "happy and sunny" and just the opposite of the demeanor of her 14 year old daughter Ann (Natalie Portman), a sullen teen who liked things the way they were. But stuck Ann is, in a used Mercedes automobile, driving cross-country to a new life. One in which, her mother dreams, she'll become a famous actress.

Such is the start of director Wayne Wang's Anywhere But Here, adapting Mona Simpson's book in which a dream driven mother must learn to grow up and an angry daughter must learn that her mom ain't so bad. Simply put, anyone with a more than sufficient supply of testosterone will be gritting their teeth, hoping and praying that they've done the right thing by sitting through this aimed-at-the-girlfriend flick. Which is not to say that Anywhere But Here is a chick flick. Cranky set himself down in the middle of a crowd of single femmes, all of whom left the theater with nary a gleam of wetness in their eyes. If anything Wang's movie avoids the traditional heart stomping and emotional gut wrenching finale of the traditional c.f. and focusses on the ever changing relationship between mother and daughter. Such laser like focus has its drawbacks. What few supporting characters there are are incredibly weak; most seem to exist only to provide reasonable explanations for getting things done (like the real estate agent/ friend of Sarandon's character who appears when the ladies need a fast change of address).

So strong is the emphasis on the mother daughter relationship that what might have been a heart-wrenching bit about the boy cousin/ best friend (Shawn Hatosy) left behind lacking are the subplots that, every two scenes or so, we get a new song with lyrics intended to match and reveal inner emotional responses of the principal characters. The overwhelming use of songs serves as a pleasant distraction, but little more. What additional stories there are -- Ann's search for the father that abandoned her; Audrey's inability to recognize a one night stand; and Ann's budding relationship with an infatuated boy named Peter (Corbin Allred) -- fail to pack any substantial kind of whomp.

A lack of whomp does not qualify a flick for words beginning with the letter "O". Then again, I'm a guy. . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Anywhere But Here, he would have paid...


Midweek rental. It's all Portman's show.

Click to buy films by Wayne Wang
Click to buy films starring Susan Sarandon
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