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Anywhere But Here

Anywhere But Here, Wayne Wang's new tearjerker, based on the novel by Mona Simpson, stars Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman as a mother and daughter trying to start over in Beverly Hills. Adele August (Sarandon, Illuminata, Stepmom) is a free spirited mother who goes out to California seemingly on a whim. She is completely unsure of what the future holds, she only has a job interview lined up. Her daughter Ann (Portman, Star Wars Episode I, Everyone Says I Love You) is much more pragmatic. She is upset that her mother dragged her out of the familiar surroundings of Bay City, Wisconsin, where all of their friends and family live.

In California, Adele maintains an illusion of wealth. She is only a schoolteacher for an inner city school, but pretends that Ann is an actress and that they are wealthy. They go to open houses and pretend they can afford the mansions, and rummage through the trash for rich people for cast off furniture. Adele is the type of mother that is extremely embarrassing to be around. Ann both loves and hates her, and is constantly thinking about running away. Ann is in fact the true parent, the one that is always thinking about the future, paying the bills, and how to survive. Adele is the child, always wanting to spend more money, living for today with no worries about tomorrow. Anywhere But Here portrays a family similar to the one in The Slums of Beverly Hills, both trying to pursue their American dream of wealth and happiness.

There are plenty of hanky wiping moments for those easily prone to crying, but surprisingly, not much real emotion. Wang (The Joy Luck Club, Chinese Box) makes Adele annoying to the point where you want Ann to leave, just so she can have a better life. But her love for her mother makes her stay. Portman flexes her acting muscles in a very visible way, riding high from her exposure in Star Wars Episode I. Here, she is much more natural, playing a normal teenager instead of a princess with an unidentifiable accent. Portman proves that she is good actor, not just another flash in the pan, light years ahead of many of her peers. Sarandon's performance is fine, but the script makes her character even more unappealing than she is supposed to be. Shawn Hatosy (The Faculty, Outside Providence) does well with his smal but important role as Ann's cousin Benny. Hatosy is another young actor who is trying to shun the roles prevalent for his generation (any number of those teen flicks that came out in the past year). Anywhere But Here is lacking the guts that made The Joy Luck Club a non-stop cry-a-thon. Small things like a subplot involving Ann's absent father, a boy at school infatuated with Ann, and the family car, are milked as far as they can go. Summing up the movie, Adele and Ann fight about something, make up, cry, and then start over again.

Haro Rates It: Okay
1 hour, 53 minutes, Rated PG-13 for sex-related material.

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