Main cast: Ben Affleck (Buddy Amaral), Gwyneth Paltrow (Abby Janello), Natasha Henstridge (Mimi Prager), Edward Edwards (Ron Wachter), Jennifer Grey (Janice Guerrero), and Tony Goldwyn (Greg Janello)
Director: Don Roos
What a wonderful surprise, this movie. Don Roos’s previous effort was The Opposite of Sex, which is a dark and often cruel movie about how people in love are the biggest morons of them all. He does a complete hundred-eighty turnaround here, for his movie Bounce (which he wrote and directed) is a lovely, exquisite tale of love.
And Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, never a more disgustingly perfect Pampers Family couple one can find, actually steal my heart with their winning and oh-so-poignant performances.
Mr Affleck plays Buddy Amaral, a cocksure agent who is sure he will always be at the top of the world. One night, he shares a table with Greg Janello (played by Tony Goldwyn) and Mimi (Natasha Henstridge, apparently doomed to play small blonde-woman-in-one-night-stand roles for the rest of her career) when their flights are delayed. Since Mimi is more than willing to let Buddy spend the night with her in the hotel, Buddy lets Greg take his place on the flight.
The plane crashes soon after the take-off, and there are no survivors.
In denial over his own guilt, Buddy ends up in drugs and alcohol detox. One year later, he finally starts to make peace with his demons and takes a drive to see how Greg’s widow is doing. Alas, he soon falls for Abby and her two sons. He can’t tell her his part in her husband’s death, can he?
The relationship between Buddy and Abby is cute, and I mean it in a good way. There are some priceless moments, such as when Buddy looks at the long line to the women’s washroom in bemusement and stands next to Abby to keep her company. Or his face when Abby sees a woman walking pass with a toilet roll stuck on the woman’s shoe and she runs up and steps on the paper, loosening it from the woman’s shoe. Priceless. And the way these two interact, it is so easy to see them falling in love. And the kids are adorable, not irritating, and Don Roos succumbs only once to let the kids play the matchmaker. Not bad.
Yes, Ben Affleck can actually be in a good movie that doesn’t have Matt Damon in it or isn’t directed by Kevin Smith. Here, his smirk and frat boy charm work like clockwork. Gwyneth Paltrow, whom I’m prepared to loathe and jeer at, wins me over too. I actually cried buckets at her breakdown over Greg’s death.
One marvelous thing about Bounce is that it is very generous in its lead’s emotional range without coming off as gratuitous. When Abby confronts Buddy over his deception, both parties are in tears, trying not to break down in front of the kids. At the same time, the emotions are also subtle and restrained at most times. Love here isn’t just a throbbing of hearts and perfect sex. It’s also dealing with the irritating idiosyncrasies of the spouse. And best of all, Abby does love Greg as much as Buddy. There’s no simplistic depiction of love in this story: love can have its ups and downs, so yes, isn’t love fun that way?
I still think a Ben Affleck-Gwyneth Paltrow coupling disgusting in its Barbie-Ken plastic perfection. But you know what? Bounce is an exquisite tale of healing and love, one that makes me feel such beautiful catharsis. Watching this movie is an unforgettable experience.