Americus Nation
Where the Heart Is
Review by Ross Anthony

I love Natalie Portman (in a cinematic kind of way). She stole the screen from veteran Susan Surandon in last year's "Anywhere but here" (a good film). Still strong in "Where the Heart Is" Portman, literally barefoot and pregnant, is Where the Heart Isabandoned at an anonymous middle America Wall-Mart.

Fade in from black: the underside of a Chevy, fuel dripping from the chassis forming a puddle of gas on the ground. Handsome back-country, John Cougar type prepares to move his guitar, woman and unborn child (in that order) out of the trailer park to make his fortune in California. Portman paints the necessary history in two short sentences, "Willy-Jack got the whole car for $80." and "I've never lived in anything that didn't have wheels under it." It's an intro that brings us straight way into the film.

With no money and no where to sleep, Portman stows away at the department store, keeping a detailed record in her diary of all products and edibles she's used and consumed under the penciled heading "What I Owe Wall-Mart." Gradually, she and a handful of locals nurture some Where the Heart Isstrong friendships that are generally located where the heart is. And that's precisely what the film is all about.

Love, loss, and family -- bring tissues. The director does a fine job of carrying us through Novalee Nation's trials and tribulations as she matures from a dependent teenager eager to name her baby "Wendi with an 'I'" into a strong resourceful woman. The wonderfully eccentric Stockyard Channing and the fertile friendship of Ashley Judd assist her in the journey. However, the respectably written dialogue, goes tangent and speechy in a key scene between Judd and Portman, weakening its main point and loosing focus.

Earlier on, a rather cliché choice of cuts, slow-mo and crane shots leaves one with the feeling that a young cinematographer is behind the camera. But after the first act, more mature and unique choices grace the film. In fact, three cinematic peaks pump with blood-engorged beats:

  1. Where the Heart Is
  2. A prison scene in which Willy-Jack struggles to defend his music world.

  3. A Tornado rips through the small town in a surreal "Wizard of Oz" moment.

  4. The resolve to the Wall-Mart water-breaking scene - delicately edited with an artistic culmination. Wonderful.

A fine film over all (strong "B+" actually) whose main flaws occur in developments best left unknown before viewing, but if you've just got to know - click here

  • Where the Heart Is. Copyright © 2000. Rated PG-13.
  • Starring Natalie Portman, Stockard Channing, Ashley Judd, Dylan Bruno, James Frain, Keith David, Richard Jones,
  • Directed by Matt Williams.
  • Screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (based on novel by Bilie Letts).
  • Produced by Matt Williams, Susan Cartsonis, David McFadzean, Patricia Whitcher at 20th Century Fox/Wind Dancer.


Copyright © 2000. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:49:57 PDT