"Where the Heart is" stars Natalie Portman (Novalee), Ashley Judd (Lexie), James Frain (Forney), Keith David (Moses), Dylan Bruno (Willy Jack), and Joan Cusack (Ruth Meyers), and is based on the best selling novel by Billie Letts.
The movie opens as a very pregnant Novalee Nation and her man Willy Jack hit the road in a car bought for $80. Novalee certainly has her share of problems: her mom ran away with another man when she was five, she can barely read, she dropped out of school, the only homes she's ever know all have wheels, and she hates the number five, as bad things keep happening to her when the number five is included. So she knows something is wrong when she gets her change back of $5.55 at Wal-Mart after stopping to get some slippers and use the bathroom; her man has left her stranded. With nowhere else to go, Novalee lives inside the Wal-Mart at nights and ventures out into the town during the day. She gets to meet a great many of the town's inhabitants on her walks, including: Forney, the librarian; Moses, a photographer; and Thelma, a recovering alcoholic. After six weeks of sleeping in the Wal-Mart though, it comes to a sudden end as she goes into labor in an aisle after hours and blacks out. When she comes to in the hospital, she's the "mother of the Wal-Mart baby," with everyone out to give her advice or interview her for the news. Even the president of Wal-Mart sends her $500 and offers her a job anytime at any of the Wal-Marts. But her fame quickly subsides, and Novalee is left alone, until her friends show up and offer to give her a hand. With them for support, Novalee travels through her life of love, loss, and friendship.
"Where the Heart is" is a very good movie. The wide cast of different and well-acted characters made the film quite interesting, as did seeing Novalee's life unfold in some very strange and unexpected ways. My only complaint is that I think the movie dragged a bit at two hours; cutting some of Willy Jack's exploits after he leaves Novalee would have increased the film's pace. A lot of it seemed unnecessary, but I can see why it was included.
"Where the Heart is" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. I couldn't detect any problems with the picture; flesh tones remain accurate and the colors are vibrant throughout the film.
"Where the Heart is" is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and Dolby 2.0 Surround in English and French. I was impressed with the 5.1 track as it contained quite a few instances of surround in a mainly dialogue driven movie. Surrounds are especially utilized during the weather sequences in the film, but also come through when characters talk off screen. Most of the dialogue was crisp and clean, though I did have trouble understand a few of the character's lines, mostly due to the accents.
"Where the Heart is" is pretty sparse on extras. A TV spot, a TV promotional spot for the soundtrack CD, the film's trailer in full frame, the music video "That's the Beat of a Heart," and subtitles in English are all you get. The trailer has a few clips from scenes that weren't in the movie, which I thought was interesting. I did have a few problems with the packaging though. The packaging claims "trailers," but there is only one. Spanish Subtitles are also claimed on the package, but aren't on the disc. Very misleading.
Fox has really delivered with an excellent presentation for "Where the Heart is" on DVD with awesome picture and sound quality. The extras are lacking, but this shouldn't stop fans of the film, the actors, or "chick-flicks" from picking it up. Recommended.