Forces of Nature
If you pay attention to movies at all, you’re aware that Ben Affleck stars as the Caped Crusader in the record-breaking blockbuster megaflop Batman v Superman.
You’re probably also aware of the viral press-junket interview clip with Affleck and costar Henry Cavill in which the stars are asked if they were aware how badly the film is getting savaged by the press. As Cavill waxes eloquent about the Nature of the Biz and a relative newbie’s experience with No Such Thing As Bad Publicity, Affleck’s eyes just glaze over and his face goes more expressionless than, well, a batmask. The creator of the viral clip slowly zooms on Affleck’s dispassionate face as a dub of “Hello, darkness my old friend…” plays in the background. You can just read Affleck’s mind as visions of Gigli and Daredevil run through his mind: “Holy crap, Alfred. It’s deja vu all over again!”
Affleck’s career has had more high-profile disasters and little-seen failures than about any steadily-working actor I know. He’s like a walking, talking thespian version of the plagues in The Ten Commandments. And some of those bombs are truly awful.
Some, however, were just the right movie at the wrong time. 1999’s Forces of Nature—with a 45% splat from critics at Rotten Tomatoes and a worse-yet 35% favorable audience rating—is one of those.
Co-starring Sandra Bullock, who was herself coming off the horrifically-titled flop Hope Floats, Forces is a screwball romance about an uptight groom-to-be who gets thrown together with an off-kilter free spirit on an ill-fated road trip to the wedding. In a way, it’s a cross between Something Wild (without the scary menace of a young Ray Liotta) and Sleepless in Seattle (with a winning Maura Tierney standing in for Bill Pullman’s intentionally unsympathetic affianced).
Perhaps in 1999 the cinematic world was not ready for a film in which the male lead would either be cad for standing up Tierney at the altar or alternately abandoning Bullock in a crisis, but there’s no way the film deserves the one star that Roger Ebert gave it, or Richard Corliss’ summary dismissal as “reprehensible.”
In fact, if you’re a Bullock fan at all and have never given this particular vehicle a spin, my guess is you’ll probably enjoy the heck out of Forces of Nature, which uses an incipient hurricane as the central metaphor both for Bullock’s character and the threat which infidelity poses to monogamous relationships.
Admittedly, Affleck is simply Affleck in his role as the stiff Ben Holmes, and in the early going director Bronwen Hughes relies a little too much on Bullock being, well, Sandra Bullock. But 17 years down the road, Bullock being Bullock has become A Very Good Thing while Affleck being Affleck has become so much more appealing than, say, Affleck trying to be Batman.
In my book, Forces of Nature is not only a winning romance, it corrects one of the Great Cinematic Wrongs in rewriting the ending of Sleepless in Seattle. Bill Pullman must have seen this film and smiled. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let’s just say that Forces of Nature defies cinematic traditions about Free Spirits and Romantic Fate.
If you’re one of the legion that was turned off by Batman v Superman and are looking for something to get that sour taste out of your mouth, consider Forces of Nature a great watch-at-home option.