Where the Heart Is

Stars:  Natalie Portman, Sally Field

Imagine a year in the life of your favorite soap opera characters. Now imagine that same year rolled up into a single character. That’s the kind of story being told in “Where the Heart Is” with lead character Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) and frankly, it’s a little hard to take. So are the ridiculous names of the Southern white trash populating this pathetic yarn.

It goes like this: Pregnant, Novalee gets dumped at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart by boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno). With no place to go and certainly no money, she makes herself at home at the store when the lights go out and takes up residence in one of the homier aisles. During the day, she makes friends with the town’s librarian, Forney Hull (James Frain), who magically comes to her rescue the night she has her baby all alone in the store. She ends up in the hospital where she meets the supreme white trash of all time, Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd), a virtual baby-making machine who churns out one after another with every man she meets. The most ridicumous line in the movie is spoken by Lexie who dumbly asks Novalee who now thinks she might be pregnant again, “Didn’t you use anything?” I almost choked!

Then we’re back to following the trials and tribulations of Willy Jack who spends time in jail then becomes a folksinger and travels to California.

Novalee’s white trash useless mother (Sally Field) shows up and steals Novalee’s baby bonus money given to her by the Wal-Mart owner. Then Novalee meets a bible quoting alcoholic misfit named Sister Husband (Stockard Channing) who gives her a place to stay and lots of moral support. Forney hangs around a lot and pines for Novalee who’s too stupid to notice. Then there’s a tornado; Sister Husband bites the dust; a few more Lexie babies show up; Lexie picks a really bad man this time; more problems for Novalee; Willy Jack continues his climb up the charts; Novalee becomes a photogrphic guru; Willy Jack ain’t doing so well anymore; Forney leaves; Willy Jack gets a big comeuppance; Novalee sort of comes to her senses. If any of this were believeable, you’d call it a helluva story. It’s not and you won’t.

Lotta says this is dreck from start to finish.