Where the Heart Is
is a drama-comedy released in 2000, based on a novel by Billie Letts. The story is about a pregnant young girl named Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman
), who is abandoned in the parking lot of a Walmart
by her boyfriend. She eventually is taken in by a nearby family, gives birth to a daughter she names Americus, and falls in love with the town librarian.
Tropes found in this film include:
- Adult Fear: Lexie comes home early from work to find her current boyfriend molesting two of her children.
- Alliterative Name: Novalee Nation.
- Book Dumb: Novalee, to Forney's mild annoyance when they first meet.
- Break His Heart to Save Him: Novalee to Forney.
- Disappeared Dad: Americus' father abandons her mother in the parking lot at Walmart before she is born. While he continues to appear in the movie as a subplot, he never meets his daughter.
- Dynamic Entry: Forney leaps through a plate glass window in the Wal-Mart when he sees Novalee in labor.
- Five is Unlucky: Or seven, in the book.
- Friend to All Children: Forney is particularly great with Americus.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Played straight with Forney and Novalee. She lies and tells him that she doesn't love him so he'll go and live the life she thinks he wants back east. She does come to her senses later and goes back and tells him the truth.
- Insecure Love Interest: Novalee believes she isn't good enough for Forney and doesn't want to tie him down to a life where he is unhappy.
- Kick the Dog: Willy Jack abandoning Novalee at Walmart in an unknown town.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Although there are some ups and downs, overall life turns out well for Novalee, who is able to make a home for herself with the help and support of caring friends. Meanwhile, things go increasingly badly for Willy Jack after he leaves Novalee behind: he spends time in prison, has his chance at a music career tanked when he's accused of stealing the song he wrote, and ends up losing both legs in a train accident after passing out drunk on the railroad tracks.
- Law of Inverse Fertility: Both played straight and averted with Novalee, as she didn't exactly plan to get pregnant at 17 to a guy who would abandon her in the middle of nowhere, but a later fling does not result in a pregnancy for her. Played straight with Lexie, as has 4 kids by 3 different deadbeat daddies at the start of the movie. And it gets worse as the movie goes on.
Well, I started when I was 15 and I just couldn't stop. I wanted to find the first one a daddy, but all I got out of that was another baby. So, I wanted to find 'em both a daddy, and so on, and so on. I think I'm goin' about this the wrong way.
- Meaningful Name: How Novalee ends up picking "Americus" as her daughter's name. She initially tells Moses that she's thinking about "Wendi, with an i," only for Moses to emphatically advise her to give her baby a name that means something.
- Nice Guy: Forney's first appearance has him belittling Novalee, and his second appearance has what could be considered stalking. However, the rest of the film shows him as a genuinely nice person who loves and supports Novalee and Americus. His behaviour at the beginning was likely him having an extra-stressful day and just simple curiosity.
- Parental Abandonment: Novalee's father is never seen, and her mother only shows up to steal money from her and disappear again.
- Parental Substitute: Sister Husband takes in Novalee and becomes like a grandma for Americus.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Novalee falls in love with Forney, the local librarian.
- Lexie was attracted to bad boys who would all end up getting her pregnant and running off on her. She would eventually marry Adorkable Ernie the Exterminator who despite looking frumpy and plain has a heart of gold.
- Soft Glass: See Dynamic Entry above.
- Spit Take: Done by Lexie when she and Novalee learn that Sister Husband left everything to Novalee.
- Theme Naming: Lexie has named all her kids after snack food.
- Title Drop
- What Does He See In Me: Novalee repeatedly insists that she and Forney are Just Friends and that the main root of his attachment to her is Americus. Lexie, who's somewhat The Ditz, figures out that Novalee believes Forney is too good for her and is not impressed. Forney is heartbroken when Novalee denies sharing his feelings in a Break His Heart to Save Him move. In the end, Novalee finally realises she does deserve happiness and admits that not only is she in love with him but that the feeling is mutual.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Lexie names all her kids after snack food. Novalee, advised by Moses to give her baby a Meaningful Name, takes it a bit too far and names her daughter Americus Nation. Granted, it's not like most of the other characters have normal names anyway.