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Reviews for the week of May 1, 2000.

Monday:
Gossip

Gossip
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Gossip is a fascinating, twisted thriller about - what else?- gossip.

The gossip in question is a rumor started by three college students, Cathy Jones, Travis, and Derek. For a school report, they decide to start a rumor, and track it, to see how it grows. Their rumor claims that Sarah, a rich girl (who, according to previous gossip, never has sex) got drunk and slept with her boyfriend (Joshua Jackson) at a party. (Derek saw the two in an upstairs bedroom while his drunk girlfriend was barfing in the bathroom; he claims Sarah passed out and Jackson left.) But that doesn't stop them from stretching the truth.

As you might guess, the rumor spreads and grows in the telling. Soon, even Sarah believes that she was raped. Charges are pressed against Jackson, and things get ugly for everyone.

Then, Jones discovers some past secrets involving Derek and Sarah, and the plot becomes even more convoluted.

Audio VersionThe plot of Gossip has so many twists and turns you have to love its surprise ending. The acting is terrific, and the plot is original and intriguing. Gossip is definitely a fun, sassy thriller.

My Rating = Three Stars

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Friday:
Where the Heart Is

Where the Heart Is
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Where the Heart Is can be summed up in three words: Saw It Coming. At least, that's what I thought every time another predictable scene happened.

Natalie Portman plays Novalee Nation, a pregnant teen whose boyfriend dumps her at small-town Wal-Mart and drives off, leaving her with no place to live (they were heading for California). So, she takes up residence at Wal-Mart, hiding in the store all night, every night (don't they have security guards or something?). When she gives birth in the store, her baby is nicknamed "the Wal-Mart baby" by local media.

While many people disapprove of Novalee and her baby because she is young and unmarried, she does make some new friends. A woman named "Sister Thelma" even invites Novalee and the baby to move in with her.

Lexi, another of Novalee's newly made friends is a woman who, despite being a hospital nurse, obviously doesn't understand the concept of birth control (she has four kids, all with different fathers).

Although Where the Heart Is offers a few vaguely funny scenes, it actually isn't a comedy. (Recently, I've noticed that many movies, even serious dramas, are frequently marketed as comedies - the only two funny scenes in a serious movie will invariably end up in the previews. This is misleading and annoying.)

My first problem with Where the Heart Is is that much of the plot is hokey and unbelievable. For example, bad things always happen to Novalee when the number 5 is involved. That includes any date with the number five, or dates that mark five-something anniversaries (when her baby is five days old, five weeks old, five months old, five years old, etc). I can see a few coincidences happening around the number five, but this movie stretches it way beyond believability.

My second problem with Where the Heart Is: It's sappy. Women cry a lot about stuff they should have seen coming. This kind of movie gives chick flicks a bad name.

My third problem with Where the Heart Is: The plot is as predictable as a politician telling lies. Not one thing in the whole movie is even vaguely surprising.

My fourth problem with Where the Heart Is: This movie racks up tragedies in record time. You'll find more tragedy and heartache here than in any soap opera on the air. Actually, soap operas are better because they stretch out one tragedy over three months of episodes. Where the Heart Is just hits you with one disaster after another: Novalee's mother, who abandoned Novalee at the age of five, runs off with some of her daughter's money, again leaving Novalee stranded and broke; Novalee's baby is kidnapped by a couple of bible-thumping zealots; a tornado rips through town, killing several of Novalee's friends and destroying property; Lexi's children are molested by her boyfriend; Novalee's new love interest loses his sister to alcoholism; Novalee's ex-boyfriend gets drunk, falls down in front of a train, and loses his legs; Novalee dumps the aforementioned love interest because, since his family is old money, she feels she isn't good enough for him (so they both end up miserable for awhile). And that's just the tip of the iceberg. What did the writers of Where the Heart Is do? Did they sit down and make a list of every tragic event that could happen to anybody and lump it all into one movie?

Audio VersionNow that I have thoroughly explained my point, suffice it to say that Where the Heart Is is a wearisome, miserable excuse for a movie.

My Rating = One Star

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