This double feature contains the following two coming-of-age dramas.
ANYWHERE BUT HERE: Director Wayne Wang, known for family dramas about Chinese Americans that focus on mother-daughter relationships (DIM SUM, THE JOY LUCK CLUB), here adapts Mona Simpson's ANYWHERE BUT HERE, a novel perfectly suited for his talents. Teenage Ann (Natalie Portman) wants a normal life, but her mother, Adele (Susan Sarandon), has a different idea of what is considered normal. When Adele grows tired of claustrophobic small-town life in Wisconsin, she takes the constantly complaining Ann across the country to Los Angeles, where she wants to start a new life. Ann, however, doesn't want to go, and her behavior wavers between typical adolescent annoyance to real insightfulness into her mother's character. Much of this comes from the voice-over provided by the adult Ann, who explains it all from her mature point of view. This sentimental story, long on feelings and more feelings, is nicely played, with Sarandon enthusiastic as the eccentric single mother that her daughter can't wait to get away from.
STEALING BEAUTY: When 19-year-old Lucy Harmon (Liv Tyler) arrives in Tuscany, wondering about her mother (a recent suicide) and still nursing a crush on Niccolo, the local playboy she met on a visit four years earlier, everyone sits up and takes notice--especially director Bernardo Bertolucci, who trains his camera on the ingnue with understandable enthusiasm. The Graysons, who own the artists' colony and villa where Lucy's mother once wrote poetry, take the young girl in, and their guests enjoy the infusion of youth. Perhaps most deeply affected is Alex Parrish (Jeremy Irons), a terminally ill writer who finds Lucy charming and vital. Before such attentions, Lucy's interest in Niccolo (who turns out to be a jerk) quickly fades, replaced by an unexpected mystery regarding the identity of her father and a possible new love. And in a further attempt to understand her mother, Lucy writes light little poems as well. (Bertolucci has her words appear on the screen as she scribbles.) In fact, everything seems light in lush and lovely in Tuscany, which provides a gorgeous setting for the gifted ensemble to play out their intrigues.