Where the Heart Is

A movie about what's generally known as white trash—and not to be confused with John Boorman's quirky 1990 comedy about yuppies, which bears the same title. Dumped by her musician boyfriend (Dylan Bruno) at an Oklahoma Wal-Mart, Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman), who's 17 and pregnant, camps out and makes new friends, some of them played by Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing, and James Frain. Moving in fits and starts, mawkish in its sincerity, and at times disjointed in its lumpy structure, this drama about the plight of unmarried mothers, adapted by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel from a novel by Billie Letts, probably would have fared much better as a Warners second feature of the 30s, about half as long and twice as gritty. This has agreeable sentiments but lousy reflexes, such as its way of signaling tragic events well in advance through the hokey score. TV producer Matt Williams directed. 120 min.

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