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   HEARTS IN ATLANTIS (2001) 

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CAST
Anthony Hopkins
Anton Yelchin
Hope Davis
Mika Boorem
David Morse
Will Rothhaar
Dierdre O'Connell
Timothy Reifsnyder

DIRECTED BY
Scott Hicks

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 101 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama/Mystery


Anthony Hopkins is one of the only actors who can still get my butt in a theater seat merely by his presence in a film. I was intrigued by the trailer and the fact that the story was written by Steven King. I know his novels don't always translate well to the screen, but his short stories are a different matter, especially when they don't deal with murder and mayhem. STAND BY ME and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION are perfect examples. With director Scott Hicks behind the camera, I was hoping for a gripping tale that grabs the heart. Well, one out of two isn't bad. It's supposedly a coming-of-age story with a mysterious twist. However, it never really delivers much mystery or suspense. Mainly because the secret being kept by Hopkins character is never fully explored. Neither is the only aspect that gives the film it's underlying sense of urgency – the appearance of the "low men." I wasn't looking for a FUGITIVE-like chase, but the film really needed to make them more of a preying presence. What keeps you interested is the relationships between Hopkins and his young friends. It's clear that Hicks really knows how to elicit great performances from child actors.

The film opens with David Morse, playing the adult Bobby, discovering that an old childhood friend Sully has just died. It sends him to the funeral where he discovers the third member of their trio, Carol, is also deceased. This propels him to seek out his old home, which is now condemned, where he finds himself on a trip down memory lane. To that magical summer he turned 11 and his life changed forever. Sounds intriguing, huh? Well, life for Bobby (Yelchin) is a never ending string of disappointment. His father is dead, his mother bitter and he doesn't get the bike he wanted for his birthday. What he gets instead is an adult library card and a lecture from his mother (Davis) about their dire financial straits, which don't seem to stop her from constantly buying new clothes. It's clear from the beginning that Bobby is more of a burden to his mother than a comfort. It doesn't really matter because he has two amazing friends, Sully (Rothhaar) and Carol (Boorem), and they have the best time together. He doesn't take much notice when Ted Brautigan (Hopkins) arrives to rent their upstairs room. However, it quickly becomes apparent that he's no ordinary border.


"Why do we always expect home to stay the same? Nothing else does."

He seems to know things before he should and is often found in a trance-like state. He strikes up a friendship with the attention starved youngster and soon enlists Bobby's help to watch the neighborhood for any signs that someone may be looking for him. At first, Bobby doesn't really believe Ted's on the run. However, as their friendship grows deeper, he ignores the telltale signs in order to keep Ted in his life longer. His mother doesn't trust the stranger, especially since he's giving Bobby money, supposedly to read the paper to him, but she allows the friendship to continue since it keeps Bobby and his needs off her back. Things come to a head one weekend, when everyone Bobby cares about encounters the dark side of life. These horrible events will change his life forever, bringing an end to the sweetness and innocence of his youth. However, he refuses to be beaten down by life, taking control of his own emotions and destiny, finding strength and courage he never knew he had.

I have a feeling this was much more powerful as a short story. There's just not enough going on to merit a 2-hour film. I love quiet movies that concentrate on the small, yet important moments and relationships of life...and that's what this film does very well. The characters are wonderful and the acting heartbreaking, yet it leaves you with a feeling that you're missing something. It's understandable that Hicks would want to delve into the people instead of a tired plot about secret government goings-on, but there's just no payoff to all the speculation. Sure the film is told through the eyes of an 11-year-old, but that's no excuse. Maybe the short story is just as illusive, I don't know. I just wanted more. It's not like Hopkins' life was in danger, just his freedom. The most painful part of the situation is the toll it takes on Bobby.

The relationship between Bobby and Carol has got to be one of the most honest explorations of young love onscreen I've yet to encounter. Yelchin and Boorem are mesmerizing. Their first inklings of sexual yearning, honestly and sweetly portrayed. I look forward to seeing more of them in the future. I have to give kudos to Hope Davis for taking on such an unlikable character as Bobby's mother. She is just so bitter and selfish, you want to smack her. I even found it hard to feel sorry for her when her world comes crashing down. Since we're supposed to be identifying with Bobby, I guess that's the point. I don't think I would have forgiven her as quickly, but then again I'm not 11 with her as my only parent. Everything about this film is first-rate, except for the story itself. It's not the most original coming-of-age tale ever made, but it is an honest, emotional and engaging experience. If you like Hopkins and Hicks, you'll be entertained enough. Not as magnificent as Hicks' SHINE, but a decent effort none-the-less.



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