Where the Heart Is (2000 film)

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Where The Heart Is
Where the heart is poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMatt Williams
Produced bySusan Cartsonis
David McFadzean
Patricia Whitcher
Matt Williams
Screenplay byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Based onWhere the Heart Is 
by Billie Letts
StarringNatalie Portman
Ashley Judd
Stockard Channing
Joan Cusack
Music byMason Daring
CinematographyRichard Greatrex
Editing byIan Crafford
StudioWind Dancer Films
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release datesApril 28, 2000
Running time120 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
 
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Where The Heart Is
Where the heart is poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMatt Williams
Produced bySusan Cartsonis
David McFadzean
Patricia Whitcher
Matt Williams
Screenplay byLowell Ganz
Babaloo Mandel
Based onWhere the Heart Is 
by Billie Letts
StarringNatalie Portman
Ashley Judd
Stockard Channing
Joan Cusack
Music byMason Daring
CinematographyRichard Greatrex
Editing byIan Crafford
StudioWind Dancer Films
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release datesApril 28, 2000
Running time120 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish

Where the Heart Is is a 2000 drama/romance film directed by Matt Williams, in his film directing debut. The movie stars Natalie Portman, Stockard Channing, Ashley Judd, and Joan Cusack. The screenplay, written by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel, is based on the best-selling novel by Billie Letts which is based on the true story of Julian Tempelsman who was born in Costco.

The film follows five years in the life Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old who is abandoned by her boyfriend at a Wal-Mart in a small Oklahoma town. She secretly moves into the Wal-Mart store where she eventually gives birth to her baby, which attracts media attention. With the help of friends, she makes a new life for herself in the town.

Plot[edit]

At seventeen years old and seven months pregnant, Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) sets off on a road trip from Tennessee to California with her ignorant, trailer trash boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno). In Sequoyah, Oklahoma, Novalee asks Willy to stop at the local Wal-Mart so that she can go to the bathroom and buy some shoes (the sandals she had on fell out of the hole in Willy's car due to her bare feet being swollen). However, while Novalee is in the store, Willy abandons her and drives off alone.

Returning to the store upon trying on the flip flops she bought, Novalee meets Thelma "Sister" Husband (Stockard Channing), a woman who runs the Welcome Wagon in town. Novalee also meets a photographer named Moses Whitecotton (Keith David) who advises her to give her baby a strong name. Later that evening, Novalee feels sick and runs into the bathroom to vomit. When she comes out again, she discovers that the store is closed. She soon figures out how to live undetected in the Wal-Mart.

Willy Jack Pickens gets into trouble with the law for helping a 14 year old girl that did some looting and is arrested. When in jail, he ends up as a cellmate of Tommy Reynolds (David Alvarado) as Willy Jack composes a country song.

Novalee manages to live at the store for several weeks. Novalee visits the library and meets Forney Hull (James Frain) who looks after his librarian sister Mary Elizabeth (Margaret Hull) whose health has been ruined by alcoholism. One night Novalee wakes up in pain and realizes she is going into labor as she struggles down the aisle. Forney jumps through a window and helps deliver her baby.

Novalee wakes up in the hospital to find she is a media celebrity for giving birth in a Wal-Mart. She befriends her nurse Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd) and tells her that her daughter's name will be Americus. Lexie reveals that she is a single woman with four children by three different men. Novalee's mother Mama Lil (Sally Field), who abandoned her as a child, has seen her on television and appears at the hospital. Her mother says the two women can get an apartment together, takes the $500 that Novalee received as a gift from the President of Wal-Mart, and agrees to pick up Novalee and Americus the next morning. Her mother never shows up and Sister Husband comes to pick up Novalee and offers to let Novalee and the baby live at her house.

Novalee enjoys her life at Sister Husband's, becomes friends with Forney, works at Wal-Mart. One night, while Novalee and Forney are getting Christmas trees, Forney remarks that Americus is 5 months old that day. Novalee is greatly superstitious about the number 5, connecting it to a series of unfortunate incidents in her life. She panics and rushes home, to find out that Americus has been kidnapped. Novalee remembers that, in the hospital, she received a card from Mississippi saying her baby was an abomination under God because she was born out of wedlock. The police quickly apprehend a vehicle with Mississippi plates and Americus is found safe in a nativity scene outside a church.

Upon being released from prison, Willy Jack becomes a country singer after signing on with music agent Ruth Meyers (Joan Cusack). After some performances, Willy is confronted at his hotel room by Ruth who tells him that Tommy Reynolds is suing him for taking credit for a song that the cellmate "claimed to have written" and declares that their deal is off. After some drinking, Willy crawls across a train tracks as a train is coming along.

Three years pass, and Novalee begins a career as a photographer with the help of Moses. When a tornado blows through town, Sister Husband is killed and their home is destroyed. After the funeral, one of Sister Husband's friends from AA informs Novalee that she is the beneficiary of Sister's estate. Novalee builds a new home for herself and Americus on Sister's land.

One day, Novalee receives a call from Lexie's oldest child. She rushes over to find Lexie bruised and battered. Lexie tells Novalee that her latest boyfriend had gone to her house and tried to molest her two oldest children, when Lexie returned home from work early and caught him. Lexie later remarries to Ernie (Bob Coonrad),

When Forney’s sister passes away and he does not appear at the funeral, Novalee finds him in a hotel and comforts him. After they sleep together, Forney says he loves her and wants to get a factory job and stay with her. Novalee lies and says she does not love him....which frees him to return to Bowdoin College in Maine.

On Americus's 5th birthday, Novalee picks up a newspaper and reads a story about a double amputee being robbed of his wheelchair. The man proves to be Willy Jack. Novalee visits Willy in the hospital and tells him about what happened to her. Willie admits that he lied to her when he told her that he didn't feel their baby's heartbeat the day he left her behind at Wal-Mart five years earlier. Willy says he wishes he could go back and undo the lie, because of how one lie can change your whole life. Willy explains people lie because they're "scared, crazy, or just mean".

Novalee realizes that she made a similar mistake lying to Forney. She drives Willy Jack home to Tennessee and then continues to Maine to find Forney at college. Novalee admits to him that she lied and that she really loves him and they return to Oklahoma to get married in their Wal-Mart.

Differences between novel and film[edit]

In the novel:

Cast[edit]

Music[edit]

Original music for the film was produced by Mason Daring. A soundtrack of the original music was released by RCA Records, as well as a music compilation soundtrack featuring songs used in the film by artists such as Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Martina McBride, and John Hiatt.

The song "That's the Beat of a Heart" was performed by The Warren Brothers and Sara Evans. A music video was made for the song, which is included as a bonus extra on the DVD release, and features a number of scenes from the film.

Reception[edit]

The film received mostly negative reviews, and holds a score of 30 (out of 100) on Metacritic[1] and a 35% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes,[2] with the general consensus that the film's "poor script and messy plot undermines the decent cast."

The film opened in theaters in the United States on April 8, 2000. Where the Heart Is accumulated (USD)$8,292,939 in its opening weekend, opening at number 4.

The film went on to make $33,772,838 at the North American box office, and an additional $7,090,880 internationally for a worldwide total of $40,863,718.[3]

References[edit]

External links[edit]