“Winning” is a word often associated with the name of acclaimed actress Helen Hunt—one repeatedly preceded by multiple hyphens, as in “Academy Award-, Emmy Award- and Golden Globe-winning.” It’s also an appropriate adjective to describe this auspicious auteur turn, with the multihyphenate writing, directing, producing and starring in this silver-screen adaptation of a same-named Elinor Lipman novel which is sure to be Found by appreciative arthouse auds.
“Being worked up all the time never got anyone pregnant,” hospital bed-bound Trudy Epner (Lynn Cohen) tells her 39-year-old adopted daughter April (Hunt) early on in Then She Found Me. But April, a kindergarten teacher with a wry wit, has plenty to be “worked up” about in the weeks that follow, with her attempts to conceive disrupted by the departure of her immature husband Ben (Matthew Broderick), the death of her adoptive mother, her unanticipated attraction to disarmingly disheveled divorced dad Frank (Colin Firth) and then the out-of-nowhere reappearence of her birth mother Bernice (Bette Midler).
What is especially impressive is how Hunt consistently creates dry, deadpan hilarity from the messy stuff of real life without undermining the emotional truth of April’s situation. The day after she sleeps with Frank for the first time, for instance, April realizes—in the midst of an uncomfortable conversation with Bernice—that she is pregnant with Ben’s baby. The subsequent scene in the office of bemused obstetrician played—in an impeccable comic cameo—by author Salman Rushdie, is imbued with an awkwardness that is equal parts humorous and mortifying by the attendance of both Ben and Frank.
Even the one-liners in Then She Found Me are distilled from the pain interpersonal relationships can create. Take, for instance, this exchange between April and Frank during their first date:
“Your wife was seeing someone else?” April asks.
“Pretty much everyone else,” Frank cracks.
Clearly committed to the material, Hunt extracts exquisitely subtle performances from her accomplished cast—especially Firth and Midler—in this self-assured directorial debut. With Then She Found Me, the “-winning” actress has Found a second career as a multihyphenate.
Cast: Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Lynn Cohen, Ben Shenkman and Salman Rushdie
Director: Helen Hunt
Screenwriters: Helen Hunt, Alice Arlen and Victor Levin
Producers: Helen Hunt, Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon and Connie Tavel
Genre: Romantic dramedy
Rating: R for language and some sexual content
Running time: 100 min.
Release date: April 25 NY/LA, May 2 exp.