In Bounce, Ben Affleck is a full-of-himself ad exec who, trapped at O'Hare, gives his ticket to a complete stranger so that he can spend the night with the other complete stranger he just met, this one blond and female. (Talk about a layover!) Thing is, the flight he was supposed to be on crashes, and Affleck's Buddy Amaral--amoral?--can't fight the feeling that he caused the death of Complete Stranger Number One. So he does what any of us would do in that situation. He contacts the guy's widow (Gwyneth Paltrow) and, without telling her who he is, starts trying to improve her life. Call it Pay It Backward. Or call it Jerry Maguire, because Paltrow's Abby falls in love with the man Buddy may someday become, and Buddy, it turns out, had her at hello. Precariously balanced between drama and comedy, Bounce could use a little more bounce itself; it never quite recovers from that plane crash. But writer-director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) knows how to explore the lush terrain of grief without getting drenched in tears. And in Paltrow he has an actress who can go from sad to happy and back to sad in the bat of an eye, not to mention the curl of a lip. Paltrow's is a beautifully lived-in performance, whereas Affleck doesn't seem to have lived long enough to play a guy who's been around the block a few times, especially the part of the block where the rehab center is located. Either that or he's just not putting out. (Can you be too callow to play callow?) Affleck does have a couple of effective crying scenes, but Paltrow is locked in to her character every single moment of the film. I love the scene where she explains that she's started smoking again to wean herself off the nicotine gum, which she's addicted to.
Think Annie Hall. Then think Annie Hall dealing with heart-rending tragedy.