The Rebound feels like it wants to be one kind of film, but it's constrained and compromised by the conventions of the genre it exists within. At a certain point in Bart Freundlich's picture, the pace finally settles and the focus shifts onto the characters, and the film starts to chug along nicely as a watchable, if not exactly exciting, relationship drama. You get the sense that this examination of the problems facing a relationship between a 40 year-old divorcée and the babysitter almost two decades her junior is the real reason Freundlich wanted to make the film, and when the two lead characters are allowed a little time and space together, The Rebound almost starts to find its feet.
Before we reach that point, however, we have to suffer through the film's 'comedy', which fails even when set against the low standards of the contemporary romantic comedy. Arriving in New York with her two kids after leaving her philandering husband, Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is determined to start a new life. Unfortunately, New York – or at least The Rebound's depiction of it – is full of homeless people pissing in the street or exposing themselves, all of which prompts Sandy to take a self-defence class that eventually leads to her meet-cute with Aram (Justin Bartha). He's dressed in a fat suit and ready to be beaten up by the female participants, in a sequence that grows more embarrassing and unfunny as it drags on. That's not the film's lowest point, however, as the film's inarguable nadir is reached when Sandy goes on a date with a doctor who inexplicably takes a very audible shit early in the evening and then leaves without washing his hands, before getting very hands-on with Sandy throughout the rest of the night.
I was ready to give up on The Rebound right about then, but when it's not jumping through silly hoops in an effort to make us laugh, it can be quite charming in its own low-key way. This is primarily down to fine performances from Zeta-Jones and Bartha, who both make their characters surprisingly likeable and share a chemistry that holds the film together. Freundlich appears much more comfortable with actors than he does with comedic set-pieces, and he draws good natural turns from the children playing Sandy's son and daughter, while Joanna Gleason and Art Garfunkel (!) offer solid support as Aram's parents. Alas, despite showing plenty of promise in its middle section, The Rebound is a film that ends as badly as it starts. It shoots off on a bizarre tangent in the final 15 minutes, throwing in a weirdly misjudged travelogue sequence, before returning to New York for a finale that's both unconvincing and sentimental.
Just a trailer.
The Rebound is released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 7th.
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