as reviewed by Skylaire Alfvegren
After choking down this movie, I'd say it's in the throat. With my lunch. It's official: 20th Century Fox should be burned to the ground. I had been hoping that the studio's recent pyre Here on Earth was a fluke, an accident. But it seems that Rupert Murdoch, leader of the Fox empire, has an agenda, one that wants to reform an amoral America with attractive young people and lotsa can-do spirit. (He deserves all the ass cancer he gets.)
We meet Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) as a pregnant 17-year-old about to travel cross country to California with her geetar-pickin' beau, Willie Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno). Armed only with a Polaroid camera with which she hopes to document the trip, Novalee is abandoned by said loser at the WalMart in Sequoia, Oklahoma. But she turns that frown upside down, and becomes a celebrity after camping out at the store and giving birth. She falls victim to vultures but is redeemed by the kindly, eccentric townsfolk. That's just the beginning of a heartwarming tale of triumph and reproduction.
Unless you're slightly more intelligent than a baked yam.
In which case it's the beginning of soap opera-style poop punctuated by hilariously inconceivable catastrophe, beer guts and misfortune. That a girl who's "never lived anyplace that didn't have wheels under it" would be graced with Portman's perfect choppers is only the first of many ridiculous details dreamt up by the writing team that brought us Pretty Woman.
Novalee is guided by two strong but flawed matrons: her tough-talkin' nurse, Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd), an unwed mother who keeps getting knocked up by knights in fried chicken grease-streaked armor, and Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), the ex-alcoholic whose lean-to becomes a haven for the girl of limitless heart and compassion. Everybody loves Novalee, including Sam, the kindly founder of WalMart, which figures prominently into the story and became the country's largest discount chain store by bankrupting small town businesses. Sweet. I won't even get into the love story–too idiotic too be real
Considering the Billy Letts novel on which the film is based–with an avalanche of sub-plots (including the ex-boyfriend who becomes Billy Ray Cyrus for a Nashville minute) and the black-and-white consequences of adultery and immorality (that affect every character except precious Novalee), Fox could've serialized it for day time TV with more success. ('Next week on Oklahoma Passions: Novalee rescues Sequoia from a tornado, performs CPR on the major, becomes a famous photographer and still has time to make Mac n' cheese for needy neighborhood kids.') Channing and Judd turn in terrific performances–although Judd's character is pro-life to the point of irresponsibility, popping out six kids with five different men–and if they can't save this stinking monstrosity, nothing can.