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Hearts in Atlantis

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Hearts in Atlantis

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis
Director: Scott Hicks
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: September 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense, Sci-Fi/Fantasy


*Also starring: David Morse, Mika Boorem, Anton Yelchin, Dierdre O'Connell



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

We tend to repress the bad things that have happened to us in our youth. When we call up our memories, we recollect so much that was heavenly, so much to indicate that life is a miracle, that we think we are in a magic kingdom--like Atlantis. This is, more or less, what Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) tells us as he sadly adds that life's being what it is, our hearts would soon break in two. Mr. Hopkins plays his role so convincingly that while we never see him as he was fifty years ago, he comes across in part as a loving person but mostly as a man who has seen all too much of life (in fact his eyes are failing him now): his demeanor is somber throughout. "Hearts in Atlantis" is a coming- of-age tale focusing on humankind's eleventh summer when we have not yet lost our curiosity and fertile imaginations and have perhaps experienced our first kiss. That kiss is the one we'll remember all our lives, in Ted's prescient words.

In adapting Scott Hicks's movie to the screen, William Goldman ("Boy and Girls Together") exorcises some of novelist Stephen King's supernatural themes to concentrate on the human drama-- which constitutes, after all, the best particular about the Maine resident's writing. "Hearts" opens on a melancholy Robert Garfield (David Morse), who has just learned that his best friend from way back, Sully (Will Rothhaar) has died and, even worse, the adorable girl friend of his youth with whom he had shared a first kiss, Carol Gerber (Mika Boorem), has passed away as well. While the adult Garfield frames the story, the bulk of the film deals with Bobby Garfield (Anton Yelchin) as an eleven-year-old kid, an enthusiastic, intelligent and happy boy whose life appears impoverished only because his mother, Elizabeth (Hope Davis) cannot afford to get him the Schwinn bicycle he admires since his dad had died the year before leaving only a pile of bills.

"Hearts in Atlantis" appears to ask us whether an adult we had come across in our pre-teen days, whether a teacher, a neighbor, or even a sports personality that we know from afar, has affected us so much that our lives have been permanently changed for the better. Ted Brautigan is such a person for Bobby, a strange person with psychic powers who becomes a border in the dilapidated Connecticut home of the Garfields, who pays the boy a dollar a week to read the newspapers to him and therefore arouses the suspicions of Bobby's not-too-trusting mother. Scott Hicks, whose masterful achievement "Shine" deals as well with a prodigy who is being smothered by an overbearing parent but who finds his first love, directs this work with a sure hand, allowing the brilliant Anthony Hopkins to find the sadness in Ted's character while gaining some delight as a mentor to an impressionable young man. Anton Yelchin as the eleven-year-old appears not at all intimidated playing next to this legendary performer, evoking both the bliss of a kid who discovers love for the first time (and ultimately that Schwinn bike as well) but has his heart broken in the midst of his existence in his metaphorical Atlantis. The production is a lovely one, quietly moving, respectful enough of its audience to deal discretely with a scene of violence involving Elizabeth while stressing inner conflict over external strife. The period is evoked subtly: "The Lone Ranger" plays on TV, the Platters dominate the phonograph. Photographer Piotr Sobocinski elicits the feel of the golden age of both young Bobby and the aging Ted with sepia tones. A formulaic Hollywood ending is avoided in favor of a more realistic and sober assessment of the lives of people who learn to confront their fears, appreciate the moment, and perceive life as both a series of routine exercises and the shock of striking moments.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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