When Birdee Pruitt (Bullock) is told by her husband on a talk show that
he is having an affair with her best friend, the broadcast is seen by her
entire hometown of Smithville, Texas. So when she moves back home, it's
not like she can escape into anonymity. She resumes contact with many old
friends and acquaintances, including Justin Matisse (Connick), who always
had a crush on her and still does. But far from being the gawky teenager
she used to make fun of, Justin is a man now, and a skilled carpenter. In
fact, Birdee finds that many of the people whom she made fun of are now
successful, unlike her.
Though this would be a difficult scenario for anyone returning home in
moderate disgrace, it is further complicated by the two other people in
Birdee's life: her mother (Gena Rowlands), who never hesitates to tell Birdee
what to do and how to be, and her young daughter Bernice (Mae Whitman),
who is certain her father will return to take them home to Chicago, which
she desperately misses. All are unsympathetic to Birdee's humiliation and
In fact, that is the first thing I noticed about Steven Rogers's script
for this story. The callousness of the people of Smithville seems a little
excessive for such a situation. We are meant to understand that Birdee was
overly conceited in high school; she must have burned a lot of bridges to
make everyone so smug (or at the very least, indifferent) at her downfall.
But Bullock plays Birdee so sweetly that it is hard to swallow. Surely in
a small town like this, one would find more compassion after such a blow.
As it is, the way seems perfectly paved for Justin, since he's apparently
the only one in town who is the least bit sensitive.
Still, the chemistry between the two leads is there, and the soundtrack, full of sad, country-flavored tunes, helps a lot. Adequate performances are given by Rowlands and Whitman, whose acting is good for a 10-year-old in a stereotypical role. As a subplot, Bernice has her own social problems to deal with at school. Hope Floats is a run-of-the-mill romance, but fair work by all involved. ***
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