Despite her political views, Susan Sarandon is a strong actress, young Natalie Portman has garnered good reviews for her acting ability in her handful of film credits. They are almost inseparable together on the screen in ANYWHERE BUT HERE.
The main conflict in this story revolves around a confused teenager (Portman), who clashes with her erratic mother (Sarandon) when she moves them from small town Wisconsin into a pressure cooker called Beverly Hills, thereby creating massive amounts of fighting and dramatic interaction.
It is mid-summer 1995 as a 1978 Mercedes zooms down the highway heading West. Inside drives Adele August (Susan Sarandon), a chatty, bizarre, middle-aged woman. Adele has left her boring husband for a new life. Next to her is her 14-year-old daughter Ann (Natalie Portman), who doesn’t want to be there and is mainly antagonistic toward her mother. It is not that she hates her mother, but she cannot communicate with her, and is also embarrassed by her mother’s erratic behavior. Adele’s goal is to move to Beverly Hills where she can enroll Ann in the school system and send her to acting auditions. Ann, however, doesn’t want to be an actress, or move. She likes living in Wisconsin.
On arriving, the women check into a Travelodge, the start of a series of low-rent places that they will call home. Adele gets a job as a speech therapist with the L.A. Unified School District, and Ann attends Beverly Hills High School. Ann watches as Adele tries to find Mr. Right, but always becomes too clingy, driving men away. Ann makes a few friends including a boy named Peter (Corbin Allred), who himself becomes infatuated with her. Ann isn’t truly happy at all in California, however, until her best friend Benny (Shawn Hatosy) comes to visit. He brings life, humor and stability into their lives.
Tragedy to the family, an unexpected parking violation, a telephone call to an estranged father, and college plans embolden Ann to make her inevitable escape. The only obstacle for Ann’s venture into the real world is her mother, who learns a few lessons of her own in loving and letting people to be free to make their own decisions. Anne slowly accepts her mother for what she is, and Adele finally begins to understand Ann’s independence.
While this movie is painful to watch at times, it doesn’t hold onto the nihilist attitudes of THE ICE STORM or the perverse AMERICAN BEAUTY. Adele and Ann are frequently suffering, but they cling to shreds of love and hope. Both grow and mature, and both endure many painful moments from the other. Yet, it is hard to accept and forgive Adele for leaving her husband, not Ann’s father but still a man she likes, forcing her daughter to go to California, and forcing her daughter to go to acting auditions. Ann remains much more likable, not only because she is sensible but because she has the most to endure.
It is implied that Adele had an adulterous affair with a dentist. Ann herself, in a moment of frustration, tries to lash out sexually, but Peter stops her and tells her he only wants to kiss her. Spirituality and references to God are nearly nil, but when a family member dies, a man tells Adele’s brother-in-law, “It was God’s way.” Adele’s brother-in-law responds, “Shut up about God’s way.” Though God’s ways are mysterious, it was insensitive and presumptive of the man to try and give comfort by passing off the accident on God. After all, this is a fallen world, full of sin and error. Once again, however, here is another politically correct bad example of a religious person from Hollywood.
Despite its imperfections, this movie packs two powerhouse performances sure to please the drama-starved fans who have suffered through gross comedies and special effects pictures all summer. Many young people have a communication gap with their parents. Many parents say it is difficult to talk to their children. ANYWHERE BUT HERE reinforces, by negative example, the necessity that communication, love and patience are so important in child rearing. Like last year’s STEPMOM, it is a highbrow chick flick with strong performances, a death scene to bring the tears, and a few hugs and kisses to make it all better. Hence, it boils down to a romantic journey, not between a man and a woman, but between a woman and her ideals and a woman and her daughter. Quite a bumpy trip indeed.
Romantic worldview of pursuing false ideals with many moral worldview elements of teenage daughter who grows to love her dysfunctional mother, & a sincere but false explanation for how God acts from a PC-depiction of a religious person; 4 obscenities, 9 mostly exclamatory profanities & a few sexual euphemisms; mild violence including some shoving matches & vandalism; teenage girl asks teenage boy to strip to his underwear, kissing, potentially disturbing image of girl who kisses her best girl friend goodbye on the lips, & implied adultery; some cleavage images & teenagers in revealing swim wear; alcohol use by adults; smoking; and, married woman leaves her husband & lots of disturbing examples of dysfunctional, obsessive behavior.