If there's one thing more heartbreaking than a crying child, it's a crying child wearing thick glasses, an image exploited numerous times throughout the course of the dull, uninvolving, tissue-thin Hope Floats. The child in question (Mae Whitman) belongs to Sandra Bullock, playing a pretty housewife whose husband's extra-marital affair with her best friend (Rosanna Arquette) is revealed on a Ricki Lake-style talk show. This revelation prompts her to move back home with her eccentric taxidermy-enthusiast mother (Gena Rowlands), a decision that also puts her back into contact with hunky high-school acquaintance Harry Connick Jr. If you can get past the fact that Bullock is supposed to be pitiable because, for once in her life, she can't get what she wants simply by being pretty, it's still fairly difficult to like Hope Floats. Bullock has been an engaging presence in the past, but she's not really given a character here, just a thing that sobs while wearing fashionably downscale clothing. Substitute the word "smirks" for "sobs," and the same can be said for Connick, who's required to do little more than look handsome. Only the great Rowlands lends any sort of gravity to the proceedings, no matter how many slow-motion shots of Bullock's pained face director Forest Whitaker includes. But when Hope Floats isn't oppressively melodramatic, it's cloying: A scene in which Rowlands, Bullock, and two children perform a perverse lip-synch routine to The Temptations' "I Can't Get Next To You" is some sort of nadir, not just for this film, but for cinema itself. Naturally, this is done to comfort the again-unhappy Whitman, who will turn on the tears several more times before Hope Floats lurches awkwardly to its obvious conclusion, which may or may not involve Bullock and Connick falling in love.
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