Newly single 40 year-old mother Sandy moves into a New York apartment with her two young children and employs local coffee shop worker Aram to babysit. An attraction forms, they date. Will romance blossom despite the age gap?
If Ross Geller had met a 40 year-old yummy mummy in Friends, it might have played out something like this. Mild-mannered Jewish New Yorker Aram (Justin Bartha) is even working in a coffee shop when he meets beautiful but harassed cougar Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones). She, in turn, is a typical Friends woman: pretty, witty, sexually confident and loaded with relatable flaws. There’s a direct nod to Friends when Aram’s mother (Joanna Gleason) mentions her time at Ralph Lauren — the same job Gleason’s character had on the show.
While The Rebound is nowhere near as funny as Friends (duh!), it has a good stab at wry, relatable, observational comedy while exploring the pleasures and pitfalls of the May-December romance. Zeta-Jones is delightful as the indignant wife who storms out of her suburban home after discovering her husband’s infidelity. As she catches him on video during their child’s birthday party, her perfect world is shattered — and so, thankfully, are our expectations of a chaste, insipid rom-com.
Continuing the theme of uncomfortable sexual discovery, Sandy’s kids are greeted in New York by a tramp flashing them. They then catch Mom at it on the sofa with the babysitter (Justin Bartha). But, like the movie, these pampered kids respond to reality’s little surprises with visible delight and fascination. This approaches parenting with a resigned, amused shrug, beating several comparable Uma Thurman vehicles hands down (see the recent Motherhood, or 2005’s whiny age-gap romance Prime).
This also swerves to avoid stereotypes by making Sandy an obsessive sports fan who’s far more career-driven than the directionless Aram. Unfortunately, the sharp dark laughs become scarcer as the film progresses. Either writer-director Bart Freundlich (Trust The Man) is inserting an obligatory romantic obstacle (yawn) or, worse, he’s attempting toilet humour. When Sandy’s blind date pops into a Portaloo and blithely continues a conversation mid-fart, you can feel the common denominator sinking.
Several scenes offer little or no humour, never mind tangible purpose. While The Rebound has likable characters, it doesn’t concern itself with expanding them too much. Zeta-Jones and Bartha have chemistry, but there’s no great sense of them as passionate soulmates destined to be together. Perhaps he’s just a little too nice: he loves kids, refuses to look at other women and stars in a saccharine closing montage that could pass as a plea for his sainthood. As Sandy’s friend says at one point: “I’m not sure this guy is real.”
With a predictable plot and undercooked characters, The Rebound should be one of the pointless romantic comedies we advise you to miss. Thanks to a mischievous humour and charming leads, its surprisingly enjoyable. More Zeta-Jones rom-coms, please.