by Joe Barber
Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) doesn’t like the number 5. It seems that when she was that age, her mother ran off and left her and things have not been the same since. Through no fault of her own, she finds herself at a Wal-Mart purchasing house shoes. How much change does she get back, $5.55 (damn, there’s that number again!).
In no time flat she discovers that her boyfriend, Willy Jack (Dylan Bruno) has abandoned her, she has no money, no place to stay and she’s about to have a baby any day. Such is the auspicious beginning of Where the Heart Is.
Novalee is befriended by a bevy of quirky townspeople, including a local woman, Sister Husband (Stockard Channing) who takes her in when she has nowhere to go. Channing sparkles as Sister Husband who has a heart of gold with a high libido and constantly finds herself asking the Lord for forgiveness.
Novalee is joined by her sister-in-arms Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd) who has the misfortune of looking for love in all the wrong places. Lexie’s quirk is that she names her children after snack foods (Praline, Brownie, you get the idea.) Finally, there’s Forney (James Frain), the town’s librarian who takes a liking to our hero.
The film’s message is one of karma where good deeds don’t go unrewarded, but those bad ones really come back and bite you in the rear. Cusack gives a sterling performance as a ruthless music manager and David adds a touch of compassion as Novalee’s mentor. Although the film hangs around a little too long, it manages not to wear out its welcome. This one has the heart of a champion.