Miss M Returns

THEN SHE FOUND ME
Running Time 100 minutes
Written and
Directed by Helen Hunt
Starring Helen Hunt, Matthew Broderick, Bette Midler, Colin Firth

Then She Found Me, directed and co-written by Helen Hunt, who also stars, is a funny and touching story about the way we create families both by blood and by choice. April Epner (Hunt) is 39 and her biological clock is sounding an alarm. When she gets dumped by her charming but adolescent husband (Matthew Broderick, who specializes in such things) as a marital mistake, one door closes, but another one bursts open. Enter Bette Midler, as a brash, overwhelming and thoroughly obnoxious talk show host named Bernice, who drops in out of the blue to declare herself April’s biological mother. The jaw-dropping cherry on top of the Sunday sundae: April is the result of a one-night stand Bernice had 40 years ago with Steve McQueen.

Both devastated and baffled, April finds an escape from her screwed-up life in the arms of Frank (Colin Firth, who steals the movie), a handsome, warm, understanding and conveniently single father whose wife deserted him and their children. Mothering a ready-made family and tackling a new relationship at the same time presents double jeopardy, but the emotional minefields really explode when April discovers she is pregnant herself! Events unfold with a quiet dramatic trajectory, interrupted by unnerving needle pricks of humor. Always there is the thread of moody, contemplative silences as affecting as two bare feet touching under a cafe table. What’s lacking in big emotional outbursts is compensated by Ms. Hunt’s desire to explore a woman’s most painful anxieties.

O.K., it’s not Barbara Stanwyck in No Man of Her Own or even Lucille Ball in Yours, Mine and Ours. But the Hunt-Firth team has a glowing chemistry; the human strain in his eyes and on his brow is unsentimental but on the verge of tears. Midler has her moments, too. Less fun since she turned from the Divine Miss M into the head of the local Hadassah, she’s still a force of nature capable of creating her own bombast, to the detriment of anybody who shares the screen. She’s a fine catalyst as the larger-than-life hurricane who forces April to question the neat, dull, cookie-cutter existence she’s ordered for herself, as if from a caterer. Debuts can be dicey, but as a director, Helen Hunt handles the reins sweetly, but with control and finesse. Actors directing themselves: Not always a good idea, but this time you go away impressed.