"When you've lived a little longer you'll see what complex blunderers we all are," novelist Edith Wharton once wrote. "How we're struck blind sometimes, and mad sometimes and then, when our sight and our senses come back, how we have to set to work, and build up little by little, bit by bit, the precious things we'd smashed to atoms without knowing it. Life's just a perpetual piecing together of broken bits."
Where the Heart Is is directed by Matt Williams based on the best-selling novel by Billie Letts. The screenplay by Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Parenthood) presents a vivid portrait of a resilient young woman who over a five-year period is buffeted by a series of disasters, mishaps, and losses. Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman), only 17 and pregnant, leaves her Tennessee home with her irresponsible boyfriend Willie Jack (Dylan Bruno). However, when she goes into a Wal-Mart in a small Oklahoma town to get some slippers, he drives off. With no money, she lives secretly in the large convenience store for six weeks. Forney (James Frain), the town's shy librarian who's looking after his alcoholic sister, keeps an eye on her and comes to her aid when she goes into labor one night, delivering her "Wal-Mart" baby.
Before long, Novalee finds some wonderful friends who volunteer to become her surrogate family. Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), a recovering alcoholic takes her and the baby named Americus into her home. Also providing moral support is Lexie (Ashley Judd), their next-door neighbor who has named her four children after snack foods. Despite their valiant spirits, Novalee and Lexie both suffer from low self-esteem. Moses Whitecotten (Keith David), a local photographer, mentors Novalee when she takes an interest in this craft.
More than any other movie within recent memory, Where the Heart Is tenderly reveals what complex blunderers we all are. Luckily, we are often blessed with friends who help us pick up the pieces and patch things back together again. Our best allies renew our zest for life and grace us with their supportive presence. Similar in spirit to Fried Green Tomatoes, Where the Heart Is comes across as a valentine to loving friends and all they mean to us.