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Okie Glamour

Ashley Judd and Natalie Portman as poor white folk? It's best not to question the attraction of Where the Heart Is.

The most significant omission from the novel is a sense of Native American spirituality, which touches both Novalee (inspiring her budding photography skills and love of nature) and Willy Jack (who in the book is helped by a mystically inclined Indian cellmate when his heart stops beating). Eliminating the relevant Native American characters does simplify things, as their characteristics are simply added to other principals, but it seems a significant tonal change and is especially incongruent given that the name "Novalee Nation" is most likely Indian in origin. The book's most significant insight is also lost, a nicely written scene in which Novalee discusses with Forney how you suddenly realize you're an adult when you find yourself doing something only adults do.

There's less of Wal-Mart in the movie, too, but that probably has to do with time constraints; what we do see is a loving look at trash Americana: disgustingly bright corn-dog ads, super big gulps, Icee machines and everything anyone could need to camp out in the middle of a large department store at night. That last item may quickly become an anachronism, however, with more and more Wal-Marts going 24 hours, or at least closing later than nine. Give Billie Letts a lot of credit for realizing that Wal-Mart has become the community center for a lot of small towns, and give Wal-Mart credit for going along with the gag, in print and on screen.

Backwoods cover girls: Natalie Portman (left) and Ashley Judd shed their Spago's-and-Rodeo-Drive personae in Where the Heart Is.
Twentieth Century Fox
Backwoods cover girls: Natalie Portman (left) and Ashley Judd shed their Spago's-and-Rodeo-Drive personae in Where the Heart Is.

Details

Rated PG-13.

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