Speculation about the costars’ offscreen relationship aside, the wistful if uneven Bounce is not your average Hollywood romance. Ben Affleck’s Buddy is a smirking ad exec with the ugly edge of an alcoholic. Rather than jump off the trail of a blond he has picked up in the airport bar, he gives his ticket to a family man eager to get back home. The plane crashes, and with it goes Buddy’s cocksure front.
After a quick stint in rehab, he seeks redemption from Abby (gracefully played by Gwyneth Paltrow), the woman he feels responsible for making a widow. Their uneasy conversations are all poignant starts and stutters of half truths, until Abby discovers his role in her husband’s tragic death. ”I spent the night?trying to figure out if I was glad that he didn’t get on that plane,” she agonizes.
If only Don Roos — who directed the much snappier ”The Opposite of Sex” — hadn’t let the story of their messy affair become such a messy affair itself. Too many clumsily convenient plot contrivances muddy up an otherwise affecting story: Paltrow makes a convincing widow, but as the wounded mother of two children, she’s rigid and unbelievable.
Buddy’s alcoholism quickly becomes a nonissue, and a momentum sucking courtroom episode is equally meaningless. It’s almost as if there are two separate movies here — the tender, timid fumblings of damaged adults and the carelessly drawn world they inhabit. No amount of pining for the perfect romance can change the fact that they simply don’t belong together.