ANYWHERE BUT HERE
US, 1999, 105 minutes, Colour.
Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Bonnie Bedelia, Shawn Hatosy, Hart Bochner.
Directed by Wayne Wang.
Anywhere But Here is a film about a mother and daughter, the teenage daughter trying to grow up, the mother who seems never to have grown up. Twice divorced, the mother, played by Susan Sarandon, goes to California. Her daughter, Natalie Portman, is unwilling. The film traces the tensions between mother and daughter as well as their love for each other. It focuses on the mother's attempt to get a job in California, the difference between California and Wisconsin, the daughter making friends and settling down, her mother's ambitions for her to be an actress and her resistance.
There are some very good sequences with each of the actresses, tour de force performances. There is a strong supporting cast, especially the family that the mother and daughter have left behind in Wisconsin.
Director is Wayne Wang, better known for such films as Eat Dim Sum, Slam Dance and The Joy Luck Club as well as the film about the handover of Hong Kong, Chinese Box.
1. An American road movie? Wisconsin, Utah, California? The film as a piece of Americana?
2. American families, functional and dysfunctional? The mother's generation, the daughter's generation? Clashes, love, gaps? California as a place where people might be happy? The musical background and the songs? Beach Boys and happiness...?
3. The use of voice-over, the daughter's perspective on her mother, on her own experience of leaving, California? Her mother's manner, behaviour, attitudes? The audience identifying with the daughter and the critique of the mother - or not?
4. The introduction to the two: Adele munching the chips loudly, playing the Beach Boys, the daughter and her resistance?
5. Anne and the flashbacks, the dim memory of her real father and his walking out, leaving the gift? The extended family in Wisconsin, the stepfather and his ice-skating training, his love for them, her mother's comment on homosexuality? The clash and the mother ordering the daughter out of the car? The flashbacks about the buying of the car and it being something precious for Adele? In view of her selling it at the end for Anne's education?
6. The arrival in Beverly Hills, their awe of Los Angeles? The memory of Wisconsin and Anne's upset? The meeting of the estate agent, the possibility of getting somewhere to live, Anne's crying?
7. Adele going for her job, the interview, leaving Anne at school to make friends, the staffroom and her friendship with George? Settling in, seeing the second-hand furniture and taking it? The various houses? The tour of the wealthy house - and Anne using the phone to ring her cousin?
8. The experience of California for Anne, settling down, the effect on Adele, and the yearning to go back home?
9. George and his friendship, the school, the students? The car and the scratch? Adele and her compulsiveness to clean? Her crying, her talking with her mother and wanting help, her mother hanging up on her?
10. The episode at the French restaurant, Anne and her taking all the best selections on the menu and her mother's reaction? The eyeing off of the two? The Christmas gifts, the Christmas party, the invitation, her mother not wanting her mother to go, the clash between the two, the policeman and his help, words of advice?
11. The audition and Adele forcing Anne to go? The parody of her mother and Adele hearing it, the reaction of each, not mentioning it later?
12. The beach, the encounter with the young man, the later phone call? Relationships? Anne and her friendship with Peter?
13. Going back for the funeral, the sadness for Anne? Her discussions with her friend Mary, memories of the past, their sharing? The change that they experience? The fight at the home, Jimmy and his antagonism towards Adele, the will, the home? Adele walking out and going to the Holiday Inn?
14. The strike, the girls at home and Adele's behaviour? Ordering them out?
15. The girls helping Anne to find her father's phone number, the phone call, his lack of interest in her, thinking that she was ringing for money? Her reaction, her grief?
16. The relationship with Peter, his coming over, the sexual encounter?
17. Adele and her getting the job with the old people, Jack and his friendliness, going to dinner, Anne and her being smart? And yet her wanting some kind of father presence?
18. Adele not wanting her to go East for studies, UCLA, the letter, the partial acceptance, the need for money? Adele's reaction, going through the red light, encountering the policeman once again, his advice to her?
19. Adele's listing to the policeman and saying she would do anything for her daughter, selling the car, sending her east? Peter? Anne at the airport, going to start her life of study? Adele merging back into the crowd?
20. A portrait of American women, American family, relationships, love and tensions?