RETURN TO ME
I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon this one years ago, but I sure glad I did. Now I’m not a huge fan of chickflix in general, especially those with the quintessential formula of ‘boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back and they live happily ever after.’ So it’s sooo refreshing to see one that isn’t quite so cookie-cutter. Being that we just saw this recently on our monthly movie nite, it’s still fresh in my mind.
David Duchovny (of the X-Files fame) plays a Chicago builder named Bob Rueland who’s happily married to a beautiful zoologist Elizabeth (Joely Richardson). The beginning scenes show a contrast between a charmed life of the couple at a benefit party, and a young woman strapped in a hospital bed in dire need for a heart transplant. But Bob’s happiness is cut short when his wife is suddenly killed in a car accident. You can easily guess what’s happening next. The young woman’s loving grandfather Marty (played by Carroll O’Connor with his thick Irish brogue) received a call on his special black phone inside his restaurant. It’s clear the phone is dedicated for when his granddaughter Grace gets a heart transplant (on the wall right above it is her name circled with a heart). Her close friends all wait in the hospital for her as she goes through the surgery, whilst Marty spent the entire night at the chapel praying for her.
Fast forward a year later, Grace (Minnie Driver) survives the operation and is recovering at home. She is shown painting in her garden and helps out waiting tables at the Irish-Italian restaurant owned by her loving grandpa and his Italian business partner, Angelo. A rather odd cuisine combination indeed! At his friend’s urging, Marty finally gives Grace a plane ticket to Rome so she could paint in Piazza Novona (‘where real artists paint’ says Angelo). Grace is ecstatic as she’s never been able to travel all her life due to her condition.
Off she goes to her BFF’s house Megan (don’t we all wish we had a friend like this, played by Bonnie Hunt who also wrote the screenplay). She and Megan’s large family—she’s got 5 kids and obviously overwhelmed by them—goes to the zoo. Grace is still holding on to the thank you letter she plans to send to the organ donor, but Megan says that she needs to move on (‘send it off and move on, honey, I’m sure they have’), and so she finally did. Right after she drops it off the mailbox, she unconsciously rubbed elbows with Bob! She sort of stopped walking, not sure what just hit her, then quipped ‘whatever it was, it didn’t hurt.’ By this time, I was yearning for the two to meet!
Bob’s BFF Charlie’s been wanting to set him up, and after a year of being all alone with his dog, Bob finally agrees to meet him at, you guessed it, O’Reilly’s!! You know the term how a couple ‘meet cute,’ well their first meeting is exactly that without being overly clichéd. Bob immediately says ‘have we met before?’ and when he ditches his annoying blind date, Grace gives her someone else’s to-go order ‘on the house.’
Bob leaves his phone at the restaurant (intentionally perhaps?) and the night he goes back to retrieve it is when they finally have a chance to be alone together. Gracie’s grandpa & friends happily play matchmakers (as they all share a common bond of being widowers). David and Minnie have a great chemistry together and it’s fun watching them being smitten by each other. Even though it’s clear Bob adores her, Grace still hides the fact that she had a heart transplant and is quite insecure about her scar. There’s a cute scene where she thought Bob was going to unbutton her blouse and she slaps him. She then apologizes nervously and in the end gives him a kiss, leaving Bob bemused yet blissful. it’s a genuinely funny yet moving moment!
It’s great to see Bob finds love again and for Grace to love for the first time in her life. Everything seems all rosy until the night Grace is supposed to reveal her ‘secret’ to Bob. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it, but that incident leads to her decision to go away to Rome. One of the most memorable scenes is when grandpa Marty tells Bob ‘when Gracie meets you, her heart beats truly for the first time …perhaps it’s meant to be with you always’ Awww … have those tissues handy, gals!
Unlike most chick-flix, even though it’s predictable that they’d be together, it still feels fresh and sincere. Given what each of them has gone through, you just root for them to be happy. Bonnie Hunt‘s debut as a director is truly impressive, the film is sprinkled with cute humors and witty dialog. The acting is believable and natural, and the supporting cast (including James Belushi) are all top notch. Minnie Driver, who’s British, also pulls off a decent American accent. I commend Bonnie for injecting faith into the story without being ‘preachy.’ This is also one of those rare romantic stories that blooms without being ‘physical,’ kind of like a Jane Austen pic for modern day. The soundtrack is also a major plus with classic songs by Dean Martin, Sinatra, etc. It adds pizazz and energy throughout the film.
I definitely recommend this to all of you. Go put it on your Netflix queue! =)
Have you seen this movie? I’d love to hear what you think!