After she catches her husband cheating, 40-year-old Sandy (Zeta-Jones) takes her two kids (Gould and Cherry) and moves to Manhattan. There, she meets Aram Finklestein (Bartha, and yes, you read right), a sweet, 25-year-old college graduate who's at a low point in his life. He has just found out his French wife of two weeks duped him into marrying her for a green card. A romantic and an optimist who's now a divorcee, Aram's struggling to keep his faith in the world.
Meanwhile, Sandy's pal Daphne (Grant) urges her to get back out on the dating scene. After a few disastrous dates babysitter Aram, who conveniently works in the coffee shop below Sandy's apartment, starts to look like a possibility. The parallel stories of Aram and Sandy, two people who have been terribly wronged and find each other would melt the heart of any hopeless romantic. And the notion that there is someone out there for everyone suddenly becomes plausible.
Surprisingly, the 15-year age gap between the lovebirds doesn't seem that dramatic because Aram is a mature charmer. He lacks direction and he lives with his parents (Gleason and Garfunkel), but he's such a nice guy and so perfect for Sandy that you want them to overcome the obstacles to their relationship. Although Sandy and Aram are not exactly a likely couple, their affinity and attraction feel credible. Sure, their friends and family would make fun of them, but when something works this well, you don't just throw it away without a good reason.
'The Rebound' is quick-witted and refreshingly portrays women as being confident and self-assured, unlike the vulnerable and helpless types witnessed in recent rom-coms such as 'He's Just Not That Into You' and 'Valentine's Day'. The dialogue throughout the film is real and funny, and Sandy's initial visit to a female empowerment seminar makes for a delicious gag.
Zeta-Jones brings a sexy and beautiful presence to Sandy, and although the chemistry between her and the likeable Bartha could have been stronger, they have a nice vibe, which means we enjoy the ups and downs of the relationship as it goes from coasting to roller-coasting. Taking time to keep the film emotionally grounded, writer-director Bart Freundlich avoids many rom-com formulas and cougar clichés to convey an honest and insightful look at the realities of inter-generational coupling.
The film also benefits from a top supporting cast. Even the kids are outstanding - feisty characters and not annoying props for a change. It's a welcome surprise to see pop legend Art Garfunkel in a rare movie role as Aram's father, who is only too pleased to share the news of his upcoming surgery and new body part. Joanna Gleason is also good as Aram's well-intentioned mother, who cannot help but be critical of his decision to date a 'cougar'.
'The Rebound' meets the visual criteria for New York romantic comedies that has existed since 'When Harry Met Sally', but towards the end it loses its way and becomes all too predictable. (Frustrating, really, because up to this point, the story is fairly fresh and witty.) This light-hearted Hollywood piece is not for everyone, as it joins the dots throughout and ultimately goes for the obvious, but its charming tone helps lift it above most of the genre.