Jezebel Watches ‘Bounce’: The Bummer Movie Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck Made Together After Dating

"Has there ever been a duller Hollywood duo than Ben & Gwyn?” wrote one critic in 2000. Rough!

Jezebel Watches ‘Bounce’: The Bummer Movie Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck Made Together After Dating
Photo:Getty Images

The first thing you need to know about Bounce—the 2000 movie about two people who find each other after one inadvertently kills the other’s husband—is that the trailer features “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain. So, immediately, even before I pressed play, I knew it had the potential to “stop me and steal my breath.”

But before we get to my breath being stolen away, let’s go back to November 2000, eight days after the election between Bush and Gore, when this film was released. Gwyneth Paltrow is only four movies removed from 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, which awarded her her one and only Oscar, and Ben Affleck is nine movies removed from 1997’s Good Will Hunting, which awarded him the first of his two Oscars—so they were both primed for a pretty big flop. Honestly, at this point, they were probably just walking onto sets and collecting paychecks.

Paltrow and Affleck had started dating in 1997, after Paltrow ended her engagement with Brad Pitt. The tabloids report that they dated on and off until 2000, the same year this movie was released! An Entertainment Weekly cover from the time published the headline: “Ben and Gwyneth: Are They or Aren’t They? The Stars of Bounce Fess Up.” Inside, Affleck said: “I can tell you unequivocally that Gwyneth and I are NOT going out. We’re not a COUPLE. We’re not an ITEM.” Jesus, dude.

In 2015, Paltrow told Howard Stern that, during the time they dated, “[Ben] was not in a good place in his life to have a girlfriend.” Which tracks.

Returning to March 2023, Paltrow is celebrating her ski accident trial win and Affleck is celebrating the fact that Air seems like it’ll be a hit, so I thought it’d be fun to celebrate along with them by streaming the only movie they ever starred in together. (Affleck was in Shakespeare in Love but they weren’t opposite leads.) Bounce has a 53 percent critics score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 32 percent audience score. Yikes. At the time of its release, a reviewer for the Dallas Morning News wrote, “The time has come for unsparing truths: Has there ever been a duller Hollywood duo than Ben & Gwyn?” Let’s find out.

1:20 – Excited to learn why this movie is called Bounce.

1:34 – Ben Affleck (Buddy) is an ad man! He’s just got himself a big airline account and has “the signed contract in front of me.” He’s riding in a limo to the airport and drinking. Cheers man!

3:04 – We’re in Chicago’s O’Hare airport, and flights are all delayed because of the snow. Buddy tries to get his stewardess lady friend to have a drink but she says no, and so he drinks alone.

3:06 – He’s having fun, but “Woo!” girl fun.

3:26 – He found a new lady friend, Mimi. And a man friend.

4:24 – The man friend writes for TV and Mimi works for the National Organ Center in development. (Did they pull that career out of a hat?) They’re all riffing on each other’s careers and also feeling inferior about their lack of contributions to the world. These people met five minutes ago.

4:57 – The man had a failed play in Chicago and Buddy doesn’t understand why we have plays anymore since we have movies.

5:34 – The man that isn’t Ben Affleck is really fucking hot.

5:47 – His name is Greg.

7:16 – These new airport friends are filming themselves on a camcorder being friends. It’s sweet.

7:25 – Greg’s failed play was called Lilacs at the Dooryard. Buddy can’t shut up about not knowing what a dooryard is. We get it, dude.

8:23 – Buddy gives Greg his plane ticket so Greg can go home to his family and because Buddy wants to have sex with Mimi on her camcorder.

10:02 – Greg is hella nervous on the flight 🙁 This is gonna be bad.

10:58 – Ugh it crashed. I am no longer having fun watching this film.

11:15 – Gwyneth’s here! But only because her mom’s calling her about a plane crash because wasn’t her husband, Greg, flying out of Chicago???? (Also Gwyneth’s name is Abby.)

11:41 – Geuniely (Gwenuiely?) heartbreaking.

13:25 – Buddy runs from his hotel room with Mimi to tell his former stewardess friend that she’s gotta get into the system because the roster’s not right…he wasn’t on that flight. Greg was. Ugh.

14:00 – This movie is actually an important Public Service Announcement: Sex is great and one-night stands save lives!

14:01 – They are really dragging out Abby thinking Greg’s still alive.

14:23 – Caroline Aaron plays Abby’s across-the-street friend and neighbor! Donna!

14:58 – Sorry. Am crying.

15:41 – It’s the next morning, and two people from the airline knock on Abby’s door—they’re not confirming anything, but they do have conflicting rosters and can’t locate Greg. The dragging on is getting more painful by the second.

16:23 – Abby is in the bargaining stage. And I am too.

16:48 – Buddy is on a different plane landing in Los Angeles. He just very angrily reached over his seatmate to slam the window shade shut. Calm down Buddy, you weren’t on the flight that crashed, remember?

18:18 – Greg’s death has officially been confirmed to Abby. She’s in full breakdown mode…but it’s panning out of focus and some heartbreaking music is starting to drown out her screams. Which is making it even sadder. I’m not kidding when I say I fully feel like my husband and the father of my two kids also died in a crash. Gwyneth’s acting has convinced me.

18:59 – Buddy’s back at his apartment, and I totally forgot that THIS was the airline he just landed the ad contract for.

19:08 – Buddy’s boss/friend/coworker (?) told him to go easy on the drinking. I suspect this is foreshadowing.

19:33 – We’re in the ad agency! It’s bustling! It’s busy! There are two phones ringing. It’s a little messy, but it’s not too messy, you know? It’s creative messy. They want you to know there are Artists working here, doesn’t matter if they’re just making advertisements for Lucky Brand jeans or doing damage control for an airline that crashed one of its planes.

20:25 – A sexist damage control expert (??) pitches an ad with a photo of a memorial for the crash victims and Buddy says: “You’re not gonna run this sentimental, self-serving crap.” He’s a bad boy ad exec.

20:31 – “Who cares how Infinity Airline feels? Who gives a shit? They crashed the plane.” I take it back! Buddy’s a bad boy ad exec….but for the people.

20:49 – Wait, I’m actually not sure if Buddy is a dick or not.

20:22 – Buddy’s got himself a glass of whiskey. I’m at least sure that Buddy is an alcoholic.

21:27 – He’s drunk and fell asleep on his couch.

21:30 – Now he’s sitting on a gray, foggy beach looking out at the ocean. Don’t worry baby boy, the rest is still unwritten.

21:45 – Drinking in the shower! Rough!

22:00 – Cut to a scene of the ad people at a fancy banquet, and they’re watching the commercial they made for the Infinity Airlines victims. Buddy is drunk and laughs, “Boy, kind of makes you wish you crashed more often, doesn’t it?” No one is amused.

22:25 – OK the ad agency, which we now know is called Tang-Weller, is announced as the winner of the Best National Campaign of the Year for the Infinity Air “We Remember” series…which is a bunch of commercials remembering the victims. Buddy is…not doing great.

23:52 – Buddy’s speech: We crashed and we’re hurting but we’re humble and we’re ready to sell some tickets. Was Don Draper based off Ben Affleck as Buddy in Bounce?!

24:12 – He fell off the stage and is now just lying on the floor.

Actors Ben Affleck, as Buddy Amaral, a hot shot urban ad executive, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Abby Janello, a struggling single mom, in a scene from Don Ross’’ “Bounce.” Photo:Eric Lee/Miramax Films/Newsmakers (Getty Images)

24:30 – Rehab shot. Good job, Buddy!

25:00 – We learn he’s being released from rehab after 90 days. As he walks into the sunshine, he hears an airplane and looks up—longingly, pensively—at the sky.

26:00 – Where tf is Gwyneth?

26:20 – Buddy ALMOST took a sip of someone’s old drink in the men’s room at his ad company’s party. But someone walked in and said, “Sure you wanna do that?” Now he just accused Buddy of sexual harassment? What a turn.

26:51 – Buddy says, “Are you kidding? I’m not gay!” What a line!

26:53 – The guy (Seth) says, “No, but I am.” This film is a safe space.

26:55 – Oh my god, the gay guy is Johnny Galecki!

27:55 – This is a full facedown in the men’s bathroom. I love it: Seth reveals he was hired after they shipped Buddy off to Palm Springs after “his episode” (Buddy refuses to call it a meltdown). Then Seth says, “Relax, I’m a drunk too.” Fun! (But he’s sober now<3) 28:02 – Seth is fully calling Buddy out for being a non-responsibility-taking alcoholic: “When was the last time anything was your fault.” This feels…a little too real!

28:20 – Ben as Buddy does not believe in God, fyi.

22:49 – Hooray! Gwyneth (Abby) is back! And stuffing a big cute dog into the back of her station wagon.

30:33 – Abby’s now a real estate agent? And Buddy is watching her from his car?! This movie just went from romantic drama to romantic stalker, what the fuck.

31: 44 – Gwyneth’s hairline is wild.

32:27 – She said she’s “between beeper numbers at the moment.” BEEPER. NUMBER.

32:40 – Abby is not a great real estate agent lmao.

33:38 – haha holy shit.

34:33 – Quick recap… Abby’s dog was locked in the bathroom of this property that Buddy said he wanted to check out. But the dog was going NUTS. Buddy was like, oh my god no worries I’m good with dogs, especially Rottweilers. Then Abby gets weird and is like, uh I never said he was a Rottweiler. Then the Rottweiler ATTACKS Buddy. This is not Buddy’s year. But it’s also absolutely not Abby’s year either.

35:18 – I’m getting huge brother and sister, or cousins, vibes, unfortunately.

36:01 – Abby a little bit smokes…because she got hooked on Nicorette gum a year ago and got TMJ from all the chewing…now she smokes to get off the gum. I can’t imagine any of this would be GOOP-approved.

38:45 – Ope! Buddy called Abby to ask her for her real estate help to find his firm a new spot. But Jim already found them a new spot! That’s a block away from about a dozen Starbucks!

39:15 – Buddy convinces her that because he senses she’s hungry, she’ll work harder and Abby says she’s hungry because she sucks. We love the self-awareness.

43:30 – Jim hella pissed.

44:46 – There is so much talking about real estate numbers… I have to assume audiences had a better understanding of real estate (and more people had houses that were purchased after similar discussions). This is eight years before 2008, after all!

47:55 – Abby ASKED HIM ON A DATE. Showed up at his work out of the blue. Wants to thank him for getting her the business with two tickets to the Dodgers. Ben tries to get out of it with a fake meeting and then Seth swoops in and says, “Oh no, that meeting’s been moved to Monday.” Incredible.

49:35 – We’re at the Dodgers game and “Here With Me” by Dido is playing. A quintessential ‘90s song.

50:20 – They’re at a diner. The song is still playing. They’re ordering when Abby notices something and abruptly gets up. She steps on a piece of toilet paper that was on the shoe of some teen enjoying her prom night. Ben looks like he just watched God herself save a nation from poverty.

50:35 – “I don’t think I’ve ever bought a woman a grilled cheese sandwich before.” So Buddy plays into the Cool Girl narrative. Got it.

50:50 – Dido’s still playing.

51:22 – Lmao, Abby says, “Sittin’ in the cars at the diner.” That’s the whole sentence.

53:21 – Abby tells the story of the birth of her first child and Buddy keeps staring, so Abby asks, “What?” and Ben says, “I don’t know how women get so brave. That’s all.” I want to both vomit and die and find this screenwriter and say “ick” to their face.

55:55 – They’re kissing and holy shit they really locked lips there. Like, looked superglued onto each other for a second.

54:31 – Amazing. Abby said, “Thank you.” They stopped kissing and she said, “Thank you.” This film has won me back over.

55:40 – Next day. Buddy gets to the office and Seth asks about the date to which Buddy replies: “What is this gay confidant day?” Buddy’s an ally 😉

56:55 – Buddy is trying to blow Abby off! BOOOOOOOO BUDDY.

58:03 – But he doesn’t. Phew. He meets her across the street and tells her about being a drunk because of this explanation: “It was the thinking I was such hot stuff. I’ve always been one of those people, born salesman, a closer, people person.”

58:33 – Abby says ew. Same.

1:00:00 – Buddy talked about being a bad driver? And Abby took it as a metaphor for him not being good in relationships! That went totally over my head! But she said thanks and she’s “getting on the sidewalk now.”

1:00:23 – Ugh Abby’s sad. Sweetie! He’s why your husband died!

1:02:27 – Alright so, Abby ran out? Buddy ran after her? And then says, “I didn’t want you thinking I was this great guy, I wanted to tell you before you found out for yourself. I got scared.” Currently staring at the inside of my brain I rolled my eyes so hard.

1:02:27 – Ben’s basically doing a “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy” monologue, except its bad because all he wants is a “last call of the day” and someone to help him pick a video rental. Sorry to Jennifer Lopez, sounds boring as hell.

1:02:38 – He kissed her! He was ready to ghost her not even 15 minutes ago!

1:03:52 – Abby’s kids have some attitude with Buddy. They def know.

1:05:00 – Abby’s 8-year-old plays video games about plane crashes. This bleak.

1:05:43 – Greg’s poster for his play is hanging up in the house. Abby also doesn’t know what a dooryard is! This is supposed to be cute but since Greg is dead it’s weird!

1:09:27 – Abby’s mother apparently told her its “only a plane crash sweetie, you gotta’ bounce.” Which…is what this film is named for? Really?

1:09:42 – “So that’s what I’ve been doing, bouncing, its just like crashing, except you get to do it over and over again.” K.

1:11:35 – Sex! Weird because they look related but good for them.

1:14:12 – Abby took her two kids on a short plane ride to a water park because she doesn’t want them to be scared flying. Buddy joined them. They’d been on TWO dates before this: a Dodger’s game and an awkward workday lunch where Buddy almost tried to ghost her.

1:16:19 – OH YEAH forgot this detail. Abby’s dog is named Buddy. Which is also Buddy’s name. Now her kids are renaming Buddy (Ben Affleck) because he shouldn’t have the same name as the dog. Buddy (the dog) gets to keep his name, and I agree.

I’m impressed that Paltrow and Affleck managed to take such a heartbreaking premise—that involved a plane crash and big court scene—and make it really fucking boring.

1:17:50 – Buddy told Abby he has something to tell her but it can wait until tomorrow. The way I would have screamed and demanded this plane make an emergency landing.

1:18:01 – Mimi’s back????? And knocking on Abby’s door????

1:19:00 – Oh my god omg omgomg, Mimi’s giving her the footage she, Greg, and Buddy recorded on her camcorder during their five minutes of friendship at the airport. YIKES.

1:19:53 – Buddy, you’re FUCKED.

1:21:55 – Abby kicks him out, because obviously. Buddy, this is so weird.

1:23:04 – Ben is a really bad fake crier—has this been observed before?

1:27:05 – Donna’s here to be the voice of reason and say honey, your husband’s dead, Buddy’s not, so get over it. I don’t know that I agree.

1:28:07 – And OOOFFF, Abby’s like, “When I’m with him I think about if I’m happy that he didn’t get on that plane.” I thought this movie was a romcom and there’s been no com, just existential crises.

1:29:09 – Jim, Buddy’s boss/co-owner, called Buddy in. There’s an Issue.

1:30:05 – WELL, Buddy’s flight attendant friend (who let Greg go on the flight in place of Ben) was fired six weeks after the crash. She’s part of the lawsuit with the families against the airline. And SHE’S saying she was coerced. So Jim’s like, Buddy, you didn’t coerce her right? It was just a computer glitch? But I guess the real issue here is that…Infinity might drop their little ad agency.

1:30:38 – Annnnnnd Buddy’s in court.

1:34:08 – This movie came out eight months before Legally Blonde, and Elle Woods gives a much better court scene.

1:34:54 – He’s crying, and Abby’s watching the trial from home and also crying. I feel like I fully missed the scene where these two not even fell in love, but just realized they a little more than like each other.

1:36:56 – The third (fourth?!) tearful Ben Affleck monologue of this film where I have no idea what he was fucking trying to say, but everyone appears moved?

1:37:00 – Next Day. Seth greets Buddy by saying: “Word is you pretty much single-handedly sank Infinity.” Love Seth.

1:37:18 – There’s like six minutes left of this film and I wish it finished 45 minutes ago.

1:38:29 – Abby shows up at Buddy’s house, where he’s hanging with Seth. I guess they left the agency? I have no idea and I no longer care.

1:39:21 – Buddy resigned, he’s moving, he asks Abby how the boys are, blah, blah blah.

1:41:30 – Buddy maybe won’t sell the house now?

1:41:35 – Abby made a commission joke? Is this meant to be a sex joke?

1:41:45 – Wow and that’s it! They walk onto the beach holding hands. This movie started off so strong and emotional and ended with… well, it definitely didn’t end with a big bang. (Sorry.)

This movie was…fine. I actually still believe it’s a really enticing, complicated, interesting, somewhat romantic plot, but no one (Ben and Gwynnie, the writers, the directors, not even Galecki) was able to land it. (Just like the flight Greg was on!) Mostly I’m impressed that Paltrow and Affleck managed to take such a heartbreaking premise—that involved a plane crash and big court scene—and make it really fucking boring. I don’t understand how these two people dated on and off for three years; their chemistry could not spark a piece of wood in an already-burning house.

I don’t know if they’re the dullest duo in Hollywood…though no one worse immediately comes to mind. The film obviously did not “stop me and steal my breath,” which I’m fine with since that sounds like a lot to recover from. Gwyneth’s done fine, as has Ben (though it’s been quite a journey for him). So yeah, this random little plane crash movie didn’t hurt either of their careers and here we all are, happy and healthy—except they’ve probably long forgotten about Bounce and I had to experience it in 2023.

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