Published Nov 01, 2000From somewhere between "Random Hearts" and "Return To Me" comes the plot of "Bounce," which could have relegated it quite quickly to the very bottom of the romantic dramedy pile. Buddy (Ben Affleck), a successful advertising executive, gives his plane ticket away to Greg (Tony Goldwyn) in an airport bar so that Greg can get home to his family and Buddy can get some action in the airport hotel. The plane crashes, and Buddy spends the next year in a guilt-induced drunken stupor. After going through rehab, Buddy seeks out Greg's widow (Gwyneth Paltrow) to make amends, but of course they fall for each other before he has the chance to confess his connection to her husband's death. Fortunately, writer/director Don Roos ("The Opposite of Sex") has enough talent and sense to keep the material honest and the emotional territory ambiguous. To its credit, "Bounce" does not gloss over the grief experienced by the characters in the wake of the tragedy as a convenient plot point to get the two cute leads into the sack, but rather focuses on the guilt and confusion complicating their romantic feelings.
That is not to say that the cheese factor is missing from this film. There are definitely cringe worthy moments of romantic earnestness, and the pat Hollywood ending in which they literally walk off into the sunset is more than a little much, but the film does also display considerable integrity in its exploration of an emotionally complex situation. The first half of the film also has some interesting criticism of the advertising industry, as Buddy's company is hired by the airline to do damage control after the crash and designs a series of award-winning ads showing how much the airline cares about the victims of the crash that it was responsible for, successfully commodifying the tragedy. This criticism, however well executed, would have carried a lot more weight had there not been product placement in almost every other shot in the movie for companies like Coke and McDonalds. Irony, anyone?
Ben and Gwyneth are quite watchable with their easy chemistry, which is aided no doubt by their on-again off-again real life romantic entanglement. They are helped by a decent supporting cast, including the talented Joe Morton who is pretty much wasted in a nothing role as Buddy's business partner and Johnny Galecki (Roseanne's David) who plays Buddy's witty assistant, and by Ross's solid direction, but ultimately the film's success rests squarely on the appeal of the leads. So if you're a sucker for Affleck's easy-going charm and Paltrow's open-faced vulnerability, then "Bounce" is the movie for you.