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Anywhere But Here (1999)

My apologies on the lack of a blog post yesterday.  I was at the NFC Championships watching the 49ers throw away a Superbowl and didn’t get home in time to post.  I’m back on track and this post, going up Tuesday, will essentially be Monday’s post since I want it to actually get some attention before the latest post goes up!

I’m a big fan of mother/daughter movie and between 1995 and 2001 there were a ton.  Some of the ones right off the top of my head include Winona Ryder/Cher in Mermaids, Janet McTeer/Kimberly Brown in the highly underrated Tumbleweeds (one of my FAVORITE movies), Michelle Pfeffier/Alison Lohman in White Oleander and this film pairing Susan Sarandon and Natalie Portman.  Three of the aforementioned movies were based on books and for some reason these movies were just eaten up by the public.  Anywhere But Here is different in that it’s not as sweet and frothy like Mermaids or Tumbleweeds, nor is it as dark and depressing as White Oleander.  It’s comfortably in-between and held together by strong performances from two actresses in their prime.

Adele August (Sarandon) doesn’t want to be a small-town girl in Bay City, Wisconsin.  She has plans to make her reluctant daughter Ann (Portman) into an actress in Beverly Hills.  The two move their and discover a wealth of problems, namely that Adele is so confident she can talk herself out of anything that she never deals with things like bills or jobs until the power is shut off.  With Ann continually feeling like the adult, the two butt heads continuously as Adele struggles to cope with Ann’s burgeoning independence.

The stars really make this movie their own, masking some of the bitterness and pettiness that tends to permeate the film.  Portman was only 18 when she made this and she has such grace and effervescence playing Ann.  The character goes from a willful little girl to a strong young woman trying to find her place next to a mother whose constantly questing for “the next” something…man, job, home.  She has fantastic chemistry with Sarandon and you can see both the love and the hate that rises up between the two throughout the movie.

It’s this animosity that really sets it apart from the other movies in the mother/daughter genre.  I compared this a lot to White Oleander where the mother was originally deified in the daughter’s eyes before being seen as a manipulative murderer.  In this film Ann takes her mother for who she is.  She knows she’s not perfect and there are moments where she truly loves her yet it’s easier to find things to hate about her.  It’s a VERY genuine mother/daughter relationship that I could easily identify with.  There are moments when Adele is a bit too much.  She’s loud, irresponsible, and throws temper tantrums that culminate in her actually leaving her daughter for an entire evening.  There were moments when I wanted to shake this woman and say “Be a mother,” but when Adele realizes Ann is a smart girl who should be given every opportunity to succeed, she helps her.

There are some moments that just feel melodramtic, namely with the character of Benny (Shawn Hatosy) who is Ann’s cousin.  Their relationship takes a turn into…creepy territory.  For cousins there are a few too many moments where you expect them to kiss.  Something happens right in the middle to his character and it’s just a manipulative moment, playing on the audience’s emotions.

Overall, Anywhere But Here is a realistic depiction of the relationship between mothers and daughters.  I wouldn’t call it my favorite foray into the genre but I applaud its honesty!

Grade: B-

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Kristen Lopez View All

A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.

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