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  • Widescreen 1.85:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer (RSDL 52:26)
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • French: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
    French, English - Hearing Impaired
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Music video

Where the Heart Is

20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox . R4 . COLOR . 115 mins . M . PAL


Hard-done-by cum successful-everything-goes-right films come out in dribs and drabs, and have been seen multiple times in the past few years. And it's interesting to note that they have all been based upon best-selling novels. Notably in 1999 we had Girl, Interrupted starring Winona Ryder and the Academy Award-winning Angelina Jolie, which was based upon Susanna Kaysen’s autobiographical novel. This heartfelt and stunning piece of dramatic cinema was the best film about mental institutions since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. This film follows the story of Susanna Kaysen overcoming her own issues in her life and fighting away the harsher parts of life. Then in 2001, we had Drew Barrymore in Riding in Cars With Boys, based on the life of Beverly Donofrio. This film too featured the life of a hard-done-by young girl fighting through the harsh realities of real life. Both of these films captured the emotions of the audience and whirled them through the lives of these young women who went on to find something more to life than rough times. Where The Heart Is from 2000 falls into this same category, with a heartfelt and human response required from the audience. Personally, it falls a tad short of those two other films, but it is still up there on the sob-o-meter.

Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) comes from a small trailer in a small country town in the United States. She is about to embark with her bum of a boyfriend Willy (Dylan Bruno) on a road trip to California, where he has dreams of becoming a teen heartthrob musician. On the way to California we see how much of a cheap bastard of a boyfriend he is, but Novalee is just too blind to see this for herself. After losing her shoes through a hole in the floor of the car, the pair pull over at a WalMart for a toilet break and a new pair of thongs. However, the change from the thongs features the incorrect amount (watch it to get this) and Novalee is abandoned at the WalMart store, with no money, a pink pair of thongs, an empty bladder and a baby due in six weeks. Well, at least one of those things is good... we all love pink thongs! She finds help in the form of Sister (Stockard Channing), who welcomes her to the town and loads her up with all these welcoming-goodies such as a basket of nibbles and a tree (of all things). But where to stay? Well where else to stay but WalMart? After all, don’t they have the lowest prices... everyday? She sneaks in just before closing and hides in the store for nearly six weeks. A list is kept of money owed to WalMart, and a comic side of a discount department store is shown. One thing, does anyone else realise that WalMart is the exact Australian equivalent of Big W – right down to the price tags? Hmm, scary... but anyway. One day on her visits outside WalMart she comes across Forney, who runs the town library. He finds a fascination with her and spots her sneaking into the WalMart. Lucky for both of them that day, as Novalee collapses to the floor and gives birth to her child, Forney comes crashing through the window to deliver her child, where Novalee becomes a celebrity overnight as the “WalMart Mommy”. During recovery in the hospital we meet Novalee’s mother (Sally Field), whose money-grabbing past still sticks by her, and also the woman to become Novalee’s best friend – Lexie (played by a brilliant Ashley Judd). With nowhere else to go after her mother runs off, Sister takes her in and gives her a place to stay and raise the WalMart baby. The film then takes off, and nothing else can be said without giving away the entire story. There is heartache, love, loss, pain, anger, anguish and friendship, but in the end an appropriate message and tone. Throw away the crap and corn from Star Wars and see Natalie Portman doing some real acting...


The video is presented in the enhanced aspect of 1.85:1, which is a leap above the full-frame pan and scan rental version. On the whole, this is a remarkable transfer which is let down by one slight issue.

Normally bright vivid colours are lovely to see (much better than dull colours!) but this transfer walked over the fine line between beautiful and bastardly. The colours are rich and over-saturated, giving off a lurid mishmash of blah. Colours tend to appear over-done and lack the realism that should lie within the setting for this film. Yet blacks are solid and deep with clearly defined shadows, and no signs of posterisation at all.

Film artefacts and grain are pretty much nonexistent, and compression-related artefacts are no hassles whatsoever. Even the devilishly evil aliasing effects are minimal on this disc. The detail of the image is superb, yet does tend to look a little muted at times. The beautiful yet simplistic setting for the film screams on screen with a loud voice that drags your eye right back to centre screen longing for more.

This dual layered disc has a slick layer change that's only mildly noticeable and can barely be considered distracting.


Two audio tracks are on this disc – both in 5.1 Dolby Digital, with one in English and the other in French. Being an American film, English (or American, take your own perspective) is the prime listening option. Surrounds are used effectively and constantly to provide subtle yet suitable effects throughout the film, as well as the supportive subwoofer track. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and is located in the centre channel. The front half of this immersive soundstage has plenty of discrete effects from all three front speakers, adding to the 5.1-effectiveness of the track. Overall, one of the better 5.1 tracks for this genre of film. But then again we have all the tests for a full-on soundtrack – a twister, a thunder storm and fast noisy cars. There we go then.


This is an upgrade of the rental disc with a new 16x9-enhanced transfer but still virtually no frickin’ extras. A Theatrical Trailer should be considered a standard, and a Music Video of the song sung by Billy Shadow a.k.a. Willy (except not sung by Billy Shadow in the clip) has also been thrown in. And that is it. Now, don’t even try to pass the menus off as features...


The film itself is worth having, but maybe not at full price. Wait for bargain box days and grab it then. The video is very good, let down only by some dodgy colours, and the audio is a great example of how good a drama can be. The extra features are barely there, and are quite plain and standard - *sigh*. But then there is a reason to wait for bargain box days!

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      And I quote...
    "Where is the heart? The answer lies within the film that's on this small shiny disc..."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Philips DVD 736K
    • TV:
          TEAC EU68-ST
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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