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Where The Heart Is

Converting books to film can be a tricky business, fans of the book can be dissappointed that it doesn't match their imagination. Special care was taken behind the scenes of Where the heart is to ensure that nobody felt this way about their film. With executives of Twentieth Century Fox being involved in the adaptation of the novel by Billie Letts, all the stops were pulled.
The story centres around Novalee (Natalie Portman), a 17 year old girl who visibly pregnant, sets off with redneck boyfriend Willy-Jack to start a new life in Las Vegas. Being pregnant, Novalee asks to stop to visit the bathroom of a Wal-Mart supermarket shortly after starting the journey. When she returns to the car park she finds only her camera in the place where Willy-Jack and car should be. Stranded in Olklahoma with no money or place to stay, Novalee decides to secretly reside in the Wal-Mart as it provides all she needs on its shelves, from sleeping bags to books on pregnancy. When the delivery date of her baby arrives her lifestyle has to change, initially by force as her child has been dubbed the "Wal-Mart baby" on the national news. As many skeletons emerge from the woodwork, Novalee settles in a new home with some eccentric but lovable people and begins to bloom from girl to lady.
Portman is excellent as the initially naive and defenceless heroine, who blossoms into a strong and caring adult later in the film. The film is certainly more quirky than the "bog standard" Hollywood movie, with probably western America identifying the most with the characters. Nevertheless this doesn't detract from the films appeal too greatly. The story is more of a fly-on-the-wall view of vulnerable girl's discovery of the world rather than a journey. The characters are all very believable with many you will know in your own life.

The audience will find themselves well and truly attached to Novalee and her plight. As pain and joy cross her path the viewer will empathise with all they see, thanks greatly to Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd, two actresses of high pedigree.
In summary the film is a definate rite of passage movie that will apeal to those wanting a change from Hollywood's usual explosions and car chases. A well presented chapter of life and how to make the best of what you have. Rating   .

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