By William Wolf

RETURN TO ME  Send This Review to a Friend

What is there about Hollywood that makes it nearly impossible for filmmakers to have trust in a story? There is an inevitable compulsion not to leave well enough alone. Take "Return to Me" which is set in Chicago and has a far-fetched plot to begin with. Man's wife dies in an accident. Her heart is transplanted to save the life of another women. Widower meets the other woman. He doesn't know she has the other heart. She doesn't know it came from his wife. Meanwhile, they've fallen in love.

If you accept the premise--remote but not impossible--at least there's the basis for a sweet love story, especially since Grace, the survivor, is played by Minnie Driver at her most appealing, and Bob, the bereaved husband and architect is played most congenially by David Duchovny. It is all right, too, that atmosphere is created by having Grace in the household of a father running an Irish-Italian restaurant, with assorted folksy character types aching to see Grace find the right guy despite the handicap of having had a heart transplant that leaves a wicked scar. So far passably contrived.

But we are also asked to believe that after a long romance Grace and Bob apparently still haven't had sex--unless she kept her clothes on--as she hasn't told him about the scar and he hasn't done any feeling around in that direction. Of course, she never gets the chance to confess. It turns out that she discovers a letter in his home revealing the source of her heart. I won't go into the ensuing emotional reaction and complications.

This is a romantic weeper, so we know it will turn out all right in the end. In Rome, as it happens. But did the script have to resort to an assist by a nun riding a bicycle, with other nuns standing around enjoying the reunion scene? And while I'm at it, what about the dog who still waits by the door for about a year for his dead mistress to come home?

Director Bonnie Hunt, with a screenplay she co-wrote with Don Lake, stresses the romance, humor and the passion for finding the right mate. She also plays a supporting role. Joely Richardson leaves a firm impression as the ill-fated right mate Bob had until the accident, a woman dedicated to working with gorillas at a zoo, which gives Bob a chance to pursue her dream of building a better habitat. Other cast members include Carroll O'Connor, Robert Loggia, David Alan Grier, Eddie Jones and James Belushi. An MGM release.


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