Forces of Nature

Forces of Nature, featuring Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck as star-crossed lovers, is the cinematic equivalent of Styrofoam: a weightless romantic comedy of synthetic feelings. Affleck plays Ben, a straight arrow on his way from New York to Savannah, Georgia, to marry his fiance, Bridget (Maura Tierney). Then his plane skids off the runway, and the free-spirited Sarah (Bullock) — a fellow passenger — skids into his life. You probably know where this is headed. Though Ben and Sarah try various means to get to Savannah together — a train, a rental car, hitchhiking — complications ensue with diminishing comic returns. A hurricane and other forces of nature (get it?) conspire to delay Ben's arrival at his wedding so that he and Sarah can get to know each other and fall in love. Bullock works awfully hard at being a wild thing, but she has less chemistry with Affleck than she does going solo with a hotel Jacuzzi — letting the jets of water massage her body, she roars, "Now we're honeymoonin". Affleck fares better by not pressing too hard. But even his deadpan charm fails to survive the contrivances of Marc Lawrence's script and Bronwen Hughes' direction. The film makes an abortive attempt to change direction for a twist ending which suggests that Sarah and Ben possess unexpected reserves of character. By then, however, the forces of nature have long since been buried under a mountain of Hollywood gloss.

From The Archives Issue 223: October 7, 1976