In a case of art subverting rather than imitating life, Zeta-Jones plays a middle-aged lady who falls for a man much younger than herself. Her character Sandy has been scorned by an adulterous husband and she hires babysitter Aram (Bartha) while she hits the dating scene. The chemistry between the pair is irresistible, with Aram also reeling from a failed marriage. Would a romance between the pair be a simple 'rebound' affair, or could there possibly be some mileage? There's only one way to find out...
The movie's early scenes certainly don't bode well for the fate of the movie, as the initial 'chance encounters' between Sandy and Aram are hideously over-contrived. Yet Zeta-Jones allows us to transcend such misgivings with a very believable turn that blends grit and fragility, taking the audience into Sandy's distraught but determined headspace. She is superbly complemented by Justin Bartha, who possesses such a kind and compassionate smile that you can't help but want to mother the poor guy (alas, the film itself steers clear of anything Oedipal). In the hands of lesser actors, the pair could have easily come across as nothing more than sickly-sweet do-gooders. Fortunately though, you may well find yourself trying to use Derren Brown style mind power techniques in a bid to get the lips of the protagonists to move closer together for that all important first kiss. When it does come, prepare to restrain your fist from punching the air. That kind of thing is a bit anti-social around other cinemagoers.
Less punched out are the movie's supporting characters, although there's plenty of fun to be derived from them. In particular, a chiropractor with dubious toilet hygiene who takes Sandy out on a date serves up some scatological laughs that nicely counterbalance the innocence of the burgeoning central romance. Sandy's two young kids also have shades of the inspired observational humour present in the BBC sitcom Outnumbered, especially when the son springs from nowhere with a quip while his cougar mother is 'getting jiggy' on the couch with a certain suitor.
At times, Sandy and Aram do deserve some marginally better plotting, but the positives of The Rebound vastly outweigh the minor criticisms. It's also not afraid to adopt a sudden tonal shift at a key juncture of the plot, which works fairly well. Seamless direction from Bart Freundlich certainly plays a key role in the movie's success, particularly as it allows us to focus on the wonderful performances from Zeta-Jones and Bartha. On this form, the pair deserve more prominence in mainstream cinema.
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