Chemistry. That's all it takes to make a successful romantic film. Think Bogart and Bacall. Burton and Taylor. Affleck and Paltrow. That's right, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow. The two young actors star in "Bounce" (IMDb listing), the latest film from Don Roos, he being the director of the only movie I have seen that's completely seared throughout with audience animosity, "The Opposite of Sex."
Ben Affleck stars as Buddy Amaral, a hot shot ad executive who happens to strike up a conversation with a family man (Tony Goldwyn) while stuck in a layover at an airport. Finding himself concerned with "other" possibilities for the evening (Natasha Hendstridge), Buddy gives his airplane ticket away to the father of two. During the night, Buddy learns that the very flight he passed on to the other man has crashed, with all the passengers dead. Cut to a year later, and the guilt-ridden Buddy seeks out Abby Ginello (Gwyneth Paltrow), the dead man's widow. Not fully disclosing his secret history with the unaware woman, Buddy and Abby soon strike up a relationship, both extremely delicate from the events of a year ago.
Unlike "Sex," "Bounce" is a fragile affair. Roos tucks away his cynicism and sharp wit and reveals genuine talent for constructing real drama. "Bounce" is funny amid the tears, and has moments that recall "Sex's" acidic tongue, but for the most part it seems Roos has embraced the audience this time out, not pushed them away as before. Casting former partners Paltrow and Affleck was the real coup. Both performers are at the top of their game in "Bounce," with a script that gives each a chance to grow with roles that are far more mature than anything either has done before.
For Affleck, the film shows a less calculated sweet side than his crude characterization of Holden in "Chasing Amy." His performance as Buddy shows undeniable proof that under that handsome exterior and California tan lies a great actor who can only improve with future chances to play against type.
With Paltrow, Roos makes a stylistic choice that is nothing less than brilliant. He keeps the camera on her face for almost the entire movie. Mostly shot in closeups, Roos lets the audience into Abby's brittle state of mind by just allowing us to watch her. Paltrow has a face that is golden. A face that spans time. By keeping the attention solely on that kisser, Roos utilizes Paltrow's wonderful gifts as an actress to speak miles about the character. Paltrow is fiercely talented. Those who don't believe that should seek out "Bounce" immediately for unequivocal proof that she's got the goods. Well... if that Oscar didn't convince you already.
Cruising along nicely, Roos keeps the chemistry tight by slowly rolling out Buddy's and Abby's relationship. Even though the relationship is based on a freak of nature, only-in-the-movies accident, "Bounce" has a natural feel about it. I never once had a feeling of disbelief watching the attraction grow. For the third act, Roos brings out a courtroom sequence that takes away from the intimacy of the film rather violently, though it's needed to complete Affleck's character arc. Without that intimacy, "Bounce" looses ground quickly and it never quite regains that tiny magic it had when the focus was solely on Paltrow and Affleck.
Filmfodder Grade: B+