Movies: The Rebound * *
On one level, I feel a certain sympathy for Catherine Zeta-Jones. However stunning the starlet, it's always female actresses whose careers begin to suffer once they hit the 40 mark, and of late the Welsh beauty has been finding the going tough. After hitting her high watermark in 2002/03 when she starred in the Coen Brothers' Intolerable Cruelty and (inexplicably) won an Oscar for her turn in Chicago, her professional fortunes have declined steadily to the extent where she now looks in serious trouble.
In recent years, she has tended to favour appearing in romantic comedies, and this, I believe, has not helped her cause. If you look at actresses who are masters of the genre -- such as Julia Roberts say, or Sandra Bullock -- the quality they most exude apart from timing, beauty and elegance and all that is likeability, a kind of girl-next-door appeal. And this, I'm afraid, Ms Zeta-Jones entirely lacks. There's something too thought out and grim-faced about her approach to comedy, and at times you can almost see that fierce ambition driving her through the shoot like some rom-com Terminator.
It's certainly the case here, though in fairness the poor woman is not helped one single bit by her script. In The Rebound, which is written and directed by Bart Freundlich, she plays Sandy, a harried suburban mother of two who is enjoying a little daytime break from her kids when she makes a very unpleasant discovery. She's watching a video of her little boy's birthday on her computer when she sees her husband engaged in acts of oral unpleasantness with one of her best friends.
Horrified, she takes the kids and flees to New York City (just like that!) with vague intentions of starting a new life. She gets a job as a fact-checker at a TV sports channel, and finds an apartment for her and the kids above a coffee shop. Sandy is floundering around trying to balance children and shopping bags one day when she meets Aram (Justin Bartha), a sweet but rather reclusive Jewish man who works in the coffee shop.
Having just met the man, she decides (as mothers do) that he's trustworthy enough to babysit for her while she goes out on a date she's been set up on and, surprise, surprise, the kids and Aram bond. Pretty soon Sandy is warming to him herself, but initially refuses to take her feelings seriously because (a) she's on the rebound, and (b) he's almost 15 years her junior.
Good reasons both, but no romantic comedy would ever get anywhere if women went around being sensible all the time. Eventually, Sandy succumbs and it looks for a time as though this film's happy ever after moment is going to arrive three-quarters of an hour too soon. But fate, and Sandy's estranged husband, have other ideas in mind.
Staggeringly contrived and obvious from the get go, The Rebound doesn't manage to muster a single surprising moment during its interminable 95 minutes. It doesn't achieve much in the way of laughter either. Creepy child actors spray age-inappropriate comments all over creation, and Aram has comedy New York Jewish parents (one of them played by Art Garfunkel, if you can believe it), but somehow none of it manages to raise a smile.
Watching The Rebound is a curiously flat and joyless experience overall, and while Bartha is a pretty decent comic actor, Ms Zeta-Jones looks dead behind the eyes for the most part and moves through her scenes like a perplexed zombie.
At times, you can even hear her Welsh lilt struggling to break through her standard issue middle-American drawl. All in all this is far from her finest moment.