Then She Found Me

As cute and inoffensive and eventually uplifting as Then She Found Me may be, it is also a formulaic exercise.

Then She Found Me

Director: Helen Hunt
Cast: Helen Hunt, Colin Firth, Bette Midler, Matthew Broderick, Lynn Cohen, Ben Shenkman, Salman Rushdie
MPAA rating: R
Studio: ThinkFilm
First date: 2007
UK Release Date: 2008-07-04 (Limited release)
US Release Date: 2008-05-02 (Limited release)
I am the sum total of everything that went before me, of all I have seen done, of everything done-to-me. I am everyone everything whose being-in-the-world affected was affected by mine... I repeat for the last time: to understand me, you’ll have to swallow a world.

-- Salman Rushdie, Midnight's Children

What is Salman Rushdie doing in this movie? Most plainly, he's making his big screen debut, after reportedly auditioning for the role of an obstetrician. In so doing, he's also he's also contributing to the continuing decline of the romantic comedy, based-in-a-best-selling-novel division. As cute and inoffensive and eventually uplifting as Then She Found Me may be, it is also a formulaic exercise, demonstrating yet again the limits of girls' options in the movies.

In this, the movie is surely instructive. Based on Elinor Lipman's 1990 novel, it tracks the saga of 39-year--old schoolteacher April (Helen Hunt, who also directs). As the film opens, she is apparently happily marrying fellow teacher Ben (Matthew Broderick), their shared resistance to ritual indicated when they escape the wedding and run off to ride bumper cars, a sequence that includes the requisite montagey laughter. It's not long before Ben drops the seeming other shoe, however, informing April that he's made a mistake ("I don't want this life"), that he wants more than anything to be able to jump ahead to a year from now when they will be best friends, still teaching at the same school but without the responsibilities and intimacies of marriage. April looks appropriately horrified and even sad at this news, then reveals to Ben that she has a surprise, a new bit of sexy underwear under her coat. They engage in passionate rolling about on the kitchen floor, after which Ben pulls up his baggy slacks, grabs his backpack, and heads to his mother's house.

Though he has appeared on screen for only three or four minutes, the point about Ben is made: he's childish. The film doesn’t indicate exactly why this particular character trait appeals to April. She does work daily with little children at work, though they tend to function as props, save for a brother and sister, who belong to a handsome, clever, and recently abandoned father, Frank (Colin Firth, playing yet another version of Mr. Darcy). Alternately doting and deeply jealous, Frank makes a pass at April just nine hours after Ben has left hr. Though he is unaware of this chance of timing, Frank is just childish enough to touch April's soul, and so they embark on a sometimes charming, somewhat tempestuous romance.

There's more. Even as April grapples with her ongoing turmoil over man-boys, some of which she shares with her plot-devicey doctor-brother Freddy (Ben Shenkman), she's also coming to some sort of terms over her own status as an adopted child. When, early in the film she expresses her increasingly urgent desire to have her own child ("I want to have a baby that's really mine"), April is chastised by her adoptive mother (Lynn Cohen), who extols the joys of both her adopted daughter and genetic son. "I watched you watch him," moans April, suggesting the sort of distance she felt from her family as a child.

Little does she know that she will be meeting her birth mother, the vivacious Bernice (Bette Midler). Currently a TV talk show host -- the sort who listens to teary-eyed guests tell stories of giving up their children, then confesses to her own such story, in slow-zoomy close-up, her breathing modulated for maximum manipulation of audience emotions -- Bernice is something of an ego whirlwind. After sending her assistant (John Benjamin Hickey) to check out April, she makes her move, performatively eager to reconnect after giving up her infant girl some 38 years before. "I feel like you are the reward for everything I did right in my life," Bernice gushes on their first meeting. Declaring that April's father is Steve McQueen (with whom she had a brief but passionate affair when she was a 15-year-old working at the Bonwit Teller perfume counter: "The memory lasted a lifetime!"), Bernice proposes that she and April make up for lost time, sharing what she imagines to be mother-daughter experiences, like lunches and gossip and shopping. To this end, she begins confessing assorted life details: her hair color is her own, she's hard of hearing in her right ear, and oh yes, three years ago she had a lumpectomy.

April, in turn, is predictably shocked. She's also frankly inclined not to trust Bernice, and, as she's feeling so desperate to be pregnant, impatient with a woman who gave up her child. The differences between the women are initially entertaining, if conventional (Midler brings just the sort of brash energy she always brings, countering and reframing Hunt's usual brittleness). Frank offers his own chorus-like affirmation ("You move me," he professes to April, "It moves me that you're trying something like this with her"), and so April makes tentative efforts to connect with the mother she doesn’t know.

Their evolving dynamic shifts when April discovers that she is, indeed, pregnant (not exactly a surprise, given the assembled plot pieces). Now she realizes that the baby is not just a matter of her own desire and future, but also involves a father, whose needs and expectations can't precisely match her own.

Enter Dr. Masani (Rushdie). While he is relegated largely to nodding and making vaguely "surprised" faces when April enters the exam room with various emotional-supporters. The fact that he is Salman Rushdie, renowned post-colonialist, fatwa target, and philosopher of history and identity, makes the good doctor something of an emblem too. Just where he fits into this prescriptive tale remains a mystery.







The 10 Best Experimental Albums of 2015

Music of all kinds are tending toward a consciously experimental direction. Maybe we’re finally getting through to them.


John Lewis, C.T. Vivian, and Their Fellow Freedom Riders Are Celebrated in 'Breach of Peace'

John Lewis and C.T. Vivian were titans of the Civil Rights struggle, but they are far from alone in fighting for change. Eric Etheridge's masterful then-and-now project, Breach of Peace, tells the stories of many of the Freedom Riders.


Unwed Sailor's Johnathon Ford Discusses Their New Album and 20 Years of Music

Johnathon Ford has overseen Unwed Sailor for more than 20 years. The veteran musician shows no sign of letting up with the latest opus, Look Alive.

Jedd Beaudoin

Jazz Trombonist Nick Finzer Creates a 'Cast of Characters'

Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.


Datura4 Travel Blues-Rock Roads on 'West Coast Highway Cosmic'

Australian rockers Datura4 take inspiration from the never-ending coastal landscape of their home country to deliver a well-grounded album between blues, hard rock, and psychedelia.


Murder Is Most Factorial in 'Eighth Detective'

Mathematician Alex Pavesi's debut novel, The Eighth Detective, posits mathematical rules defining 'detective fiction'.


Eyedress Sets Emotions Against Shoegaze Backdrops on 'Let's Skip to the Wedding'

Eyedress' Let's Skip to the Wedding is a jaggedly dreamy assemblage of sounds that's both temporally compact and imaginatively expansive, all wrapped in vintage shoegaze ephemera.


Of Purges and Prescience: On David France's LGBTQ Documentary, 'Welcome to Chechnya'

The ongoing persecution of LGBTQ individuals in Chechnya, or anywhere in the world, should come as no surprise, or "amazement". It's a motif undergirding the history of civil society that certain people will always be identified for extermination.


Padma Lakshmi's 'Taste the Nation' Questions What, Exactly, Is American Food

Can food alone undo centuries of anti-immigrant policies that are ingrained in the fabric of the American nation? Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation certainly tries.


Performing Race in James Whale's 'Show Boat'

There's a song performed in James Whale's musical, Show Boat, wherein race is revealed as a set of variegated and contradictory performances, signals to others, a manner of being seen and a manner of remaining hidden, and it isn't "Old Man River".


The Greyboy Allstars Rise Up to Help America Come Together with 'Como De Allstars'

If America could come together as one nation under a groove, Karl Denson & the Greyboy Allstars would be leading candidates of musical unity with their funky new album, Como De Allstars.


The Beatles' 'Help!' Redefined How Personal Popular Music Could Be 55 Years Ago

Help! is the record on which the Beatles really started to investigate just how much they could get away with. The album was released 55 years ago this week, and it's the kick-off to our new "All Things Reconsidered" series.


Porridge Radio's Mercury Prize-Nominated 'Every Bad' Is a Wonderful Epistemological Nightmare

With Every Bad, Porridge Radio seduce us with the vulnerability and existential confusion of Dana Margolin's deathly beautiful lyricism interweaved with alluring pop melodies.


​​Beyoncé's 'Black Is King' Builds Identity From Afrofuturism

Beyoncé's Black Is King's reliance on Afrofuturism recuperates the film from Disney's clutches while reclaiming Black excellence.

Reading Pandemics

Colonial Pandemics and Indigenous Futurism in Louise Erdrich and Gerald Vizenor

From a non-Native perspective, COVID-19 may be experienced as an unexpected and unprecedented catastrophe. Yet from a Native perspective, this current catastrophe links to a longer history that is synonymous with European colonization.


John Fullbright Salutes Leon Russell with "If the Shoe Fits" (premiere + interview)

John Fullbright and other Tulsa musicians decamped to Leon Russell's defunct studio for a four-day session that's a tribute to Dwight Twilley, Hoyt Axton, the Gap Band and more. Hear Fullbright's take on Russell's "If The Shoe Fits".

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.