A few tears fell into the Show Biz Maven's buttered popcorn when RETURN TO ME hit the screen. An old-fashioned romantic comedy where a man asks a woman if she will hold his hand (as opposed to cutting it off), RETURN TO ME is suitable for the family as well as being a great first date film.
Starring David Duchovny (Mulder of TV's "The X-Files") in a big romantic lead, he's likable but never lovable as a successful architect married to a beautiful, respected zoologist (Joely Richardson). The two live spaciously and are devoted to one another, not to mention to their dog whose performance should win an Oscar nod.
Intuition tells us that life is just too happy for Duchovny and Richardson. And that's when co-writers Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake surprise even the most sophisticated plot schemers with their odd twist.
Imagine this: One minute the couple is dancing at a fundraiser for Richardson's new gorilla habitat. The next minute we're at a hospital and learn Richardson has been killed in a car wreck. Before we can grapple with the unexpected tragedy, we meet Minnie Driver, a dying woman in desperate need of a heart transplant. Now, Mavenettes, given the odds, what would you say to Richardson's heart being transplanted into Driver's, and then to Driver and Duchovny falling in love?
However, before one kiss is exchanged on screen between the new lovers, movie-goers are treated to one of the film's most touching scenes where Duchovny, weary and battered emotionally, returns to an empty home that echoed with promise and love only a few hours ago. He's met at the door by their faithful dog that looks longingly for Richardson. "She's not coming home, pal," Duchovny recites.
After one year of being alone and inconsolable, Duchovny agrees to a blind date set up by his best friend (David Alan Grier). The woman turns out to be hopelessly wacky, but during their rendezvous at a local Italian restaurant, Duchovny is smitten by the waitress played by Driver. Pass the marinara sauce.
Love is never easy and in this case, it's Driver who is plagued with low self-esteem. She is convinced no man will like her because of her scar from the operation. As silly as this seems, the plot works, and for the majority of the film she's covered up to her neck in sweaters and blouses. Duchovny, being a guy, never catches on.
RETURN TO ME glows with romance and comedy (There's even a fetching scene in Rome), but the love angle never has a chance to mature because Jim Belushi and Bonnie Hunt are scene stealers. Belushi, cast as a hopeless, fun loving dad, is
equaled by Hunt as his wife and Driver's best friend. Bonnie Hunt, as if she didn't have enough to do, makes her debut also as a director. Taking more emphasis away from the leads is a gaggle of veterans like Carroll O'Connor and Robert Loggia who watch over Driver's every move from their kitchen.
Live each day the writers seem to be telling us, and RETURN TO ME resonates with such moments, sappy as they are. "I know this is corny," Duchovny tells Driver, "but is it all right if I hold your hand?"
"Yes," she tells him and there's such a wonderful spark that your Maven held out her hand too.
With love & knishes from your Show Biz Maven
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