In Wayne Wang's star-driven adaptation of Mona Simpson's tragicomic bestseller about a mismatched mother and daughter, fortysomething Adele August (Susan Sarandon) is every adolescent's nightmare: over- (or under-) dre... more »ssed, always and loudly "on," forgetful of mundane matters such as bills, more colorful kid than reliable mum. In contrast, 14-year-old Ann (Natalie Portman) yearns for stability, roots, understated hues. Transplanted from Wisconsin small town and extended family to a Beverly Hills, California, address of choice for American Dreamers like Adele, Ann comes painfully of age--sometimes blighted but also enriched by the fictions of a charismatic parent afraid to be alone in the dark. Wang has always shown a sure, caring hand when it comes to cross-generational angst (see Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, The Joy Luck Club, Smoke). Here, he encourages Sarandon in a remarkably brave, exposed performance as an aging adventuress whose imagination continually outstrips her ability to make dreams come true, whose charm is both her ticket to ride and a dead end. Portman's pout of strained adolescent distaste soon wears thin, but when The Phantom Menace's kabuki princess momentarily thaws, she projects a lost child's terrible shock and confusion. Hollywood-sized and scripted by the numbers, Anywhere but Here lost ground to Tumbleweeds, a similarly themed but more nuanced indie (with Oscar-nominated Janet McTeer), and it can't hold a candle to Barbara Stanwyck's Stella Dallas (1937), top of the line in this particular genre. But for any daughter who's looked into her mother's face and--yikes!--seen a possible future, this trip's definitely worth taking. --Kathleen Murphy« less
"One day I did a weird thing. I went to the cinema and watched this movie by myself. Some people found it strange that I, being a guy, would go see a real girl-movie alone, including the man in the ticket-office who looked really nonplussed and asked me if I really wanted only one ticket.Well, I did, and I'm glad I did it.Anywhere But Here is, exactly as its poster says: A movie about a mother who knows best and a daughter who knows better... And it's good.The story is quite thin: Ann August (Natalie Portman) is a young girl whose single mother Adele (Susan Sarandon) hasn't quite lost her youthful lust for adventure. They move from bay City, Wisconsin to Beverly Hill where Adele hopes to find a better life. But she forgot to take her daughter's feelings into account...As you might expect, there are lots of emotional outbreaks in this movie, but it never becomes too much. Also, it's refreshingly devoid of sentimentalism and happy-go-lucky lovestories, which makes the story far more believable and worthwhile.But the main reason for seeing this movie is the divine acting by both leads. Natalie Portman plays the independent daughter that is far more mature than her mother and does an extremely convincing job. That girl is destined for absolute stardom! And while Sarandon is always good, this is no doubt one of her best performances ever. Adele is neurotic and selfish, but still has strength and love for her daughter. A difficult character to play, but Sarandon makes her come to life, swaying from borderline insanity to joyous strength and zest for life. Together, they make one of the best mother/daughter relationships I've ever seen in a movie come truly alive. All in all, the story is little more than an excuse for getting two great actresses together. I suspect Wayne Wang knew this when he directed the movie. But it still works brilliantly.This is a movie that will warm your heart and thrill you if you care for great acting. Very recommendable, and not only for girls :)"
Superb acting by Portman and Surrandon make this film
Shelley Gammon | Kaufman, Texas USA | 06/26/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A provocative, lonely single mother (Susan Surrandon) decides to risk it all and take her teen daughter (Natalie Portman) to Beverly Hills. Her choice causes friction between mother (Adele) and daughter (Ann) and their family back home in smalltown Wisconnsin.Ann has to struggle with a mother she loves and hates at the same time and to try to survive a new environment, being away from her beloved cousins back home and her mother's whims.They live from apartment to apartment with hardly two sticks of furniture trying to sustain an illusion of success in Beverly HIlls to the family back home.The story tests the bonds of mother and daughter who are constantly at odds, but also the only true support they each have. The mother wants to hold on to her daughter and the daughter wants to be "anywhere but here."A number of scenes will evoke tears from even the most poker-faced movie-goers. The acting is the most beautiful thing about this film. It could have easily been a film that fell on its face, but the good story line and convincing portrayals of the characters make this more of a glimpse into the lives of two people than just a movie.Some language (nothing beyond today's prime-time TV, however) and sexual inuendo (again, nothing beyond what you'd see on "NYPD Blue"), but no nudity or violence. A lot of tear-jerking reality, though. The DVD offers scene selection, theatrical trailer and a very short featurette... no cast bios or anything. A real shame that the makers of the film didn't include more treats on a medium that begs for behind-the-scenes clips, out-takes, interviews and more. None-the-less, an enjoyable movie."
Brilliant performances by Sarandon and Portman
Dennis Littrell | SoCal | 07/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The mother-daughter bond, especially with an only child, is one of the strongest human bonds there is. Some say it's stronger than husband and wife. It tends to be intense and it almost always develops into a situation where neither side has the clear upper hand because both are vulnerable.
And they fight. Tooth and nail. And they love each other intensely. For the mother it is scary because everything is in the daughter and for the daughter, especially when the mother is divorced or single, as is the case here. For the daughter it can be a nightmare because the mother is the adult and has the power and is a total embarrassment. This is especially true when the mother is delusional or dysfunctional as is Adele August (Susan Sarandon).
The story from Mona Simpson's novel is familiar in plot and theme although the details here are unique and especially well done. Adele's judgment is more than suspect and she's careless with other people's feelings, and she's shallow and dresses funny. And she isn't completely aware of, nor has she sufficient respect for the needs and wants of her daughter, Ann (Natalie Portman). She, the mother, wants to leave behind the small town, Midwestern existence and embrace Hollywood and all things glamorous. Ann would rather stay in Bay City, Wisconsin with her friends and family. Mom buys a Mercedes and forces Ann to go with her to make a new life in Beverly Hills.
I thought Wayne Wang's direction was excellent. He used visual clues to introduce the scenes: shots of an still apartment, shots of part of a person, shots of the beach or the highway, etc., and then a focus on--almost always--Sarandon or Portman. And then at sometime, the camera backs away and we see the larger scene: the desert sand and scrub, the ocean and the sunrise, the other diners at the restaurant, the mourners at the funeral, the crossway over the freeway, and so on. The scene in which Adele is hiding under the covers from heartbreak, and Ann pulls them off, is shot from above because such an angle so beautifully reveals Adele's limbs pulled in close to her body as though in catatonia or in a return to the safety of the womb. Sometimes the sounds precede the shot as when Adele is in Bay City trying desperately to get in touch with the dentist in California who doesn't want her, and we hear her desperation before we see it in her face.
I also liked the way the film was cut. As soon as the point of the scene was made, we moved on to another scene, which is again introduced visually with just the right kind of lighting, giving us a moment or two to imagine what transpired in-between. However the real strength of the film is in the brilliant work by Sarandon and Portman.
Sarandon is deliberately annoying, flighty, self-delusive, and deeply vulnerable while Portman is powerful, sensitive, and one step ahead of us. Indeed Natalie Portman is one of the most gifted young talents in all of cinema. She absolutely commands the camera, and, as it stays on her face, she reveals to us a full set of emotions and responses, layered like things very deep. If she wants to she can become one of the great stars of the screen. She has the talent. I understand however that she is pursuing a career as a doctor. Whatever she does, one has the sense that she will do it very well.
A couple of irreverent questions for director Wayne Wang:
How did Ann's audition go? Did her projection of her mother's personality win her the part?
And, what is it that the man does in bed only with a woman he feels special about? Inquiring minds want to know (rather than make stupid guesses).
Anywhere But Here can be compared with some other dysfunctional mom and wise-beyond-her-years daughter films, for example, Mermaids (1990) with Cher and Winona Ryder, Postcards from the Edge (1990) with Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep, Mommie Dearest (1981) with Fay Dunaway and Diana Scarwid, Terms of Endearment (1983) with Shirley MacLaine and Debra Winger, and some others I have forgotten.
For the record I would rate these in this order:
Terms of Endearment Postcards from the Edge Anywhere But Here Mermaids Mommie Dearest
At IMDb they are rated in the same order but with Anywhere But Here at the bottom. Too bad, but that allows me to say that this is very much an underrated film.
See it for both Susan Sarandon, who is as good or even better than she ever was--and that is very good indeed--and for Natalie Portman, who is stunning, and as an actress, mature beyond her years."
Don't Waste Your Money
Sallie A. Martin | OK | 12/30/2001
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I thought this movie was aweful. I love Natalie Portman (Star Wars Episode 1 and Where the Heart Is), but I thought this movie was terrible. My Mom and I watched it together, thinking it would be a good monther-daughter flick, but it left us feeling depressed and we couldn't believe that we had even wasted our time. As a matter of fact, I sold my copy...!The story is about a very irresponsible mother who drags her daughter all around the country from one so-called home to the next. Natalie Portman, who plays the daughter has to act as the adult because her mother can't be responsible enough to pay the bills or hold a job. It was depressing and really downright irritating to see such an irresponsible Mom in the spotlight. The story-line was basically non-existant, it just dragged on forever, it seemed like. If you want a real feel-good movie watch Where The Heart Is, in my opinion Natalie's best so far. If you really want to be depressed then watch Anywhere But Here!"
Not that bad!
K. M. Talha | Malaysia | 01/13/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"From the director who brought us The Joy Luck Club (Wayne Wang) comes another film about a mother-daughter relationship. Anywhere But Here stars Susan Sarandon as Adele August and Natalie Portman (fresh from Star Wars The Phantom Menace) as the daughter Ann.
Adele is frustrated by the small town life in Bay City, Wisconsin and escapes to Beverly Hills, California, in a second-hand Mercedes accompanied by her very unwilling and pensive daughter. Ann does not want to leave her family and friends behind, and can barely stand her mother, who is flaky, irresponsible and crass, although she means well.
Both mother and daughter tries to start a new life in California - finding a place to stay, going to school, finding a job, getting involved with men (willingly and unwillingly). Along the way, they find themselves in a love-hate relationship with each other and gradually realise they need each other even though they find each other frustrating.
I think this film has a number of good points and well crafted scenes, but overall I found it a bit slow. Certainly it did not grab my attention and focus as The Joy Luck Club, but still this is worth watching. "