Where the Heart Is is a 2000 drama/romance film directed by Matt Williams and produced by Susan Cartsonis, David McFadzean, Patricia Whitcher and Matt Williams. Filmed in Austin, Texas, the movie stars Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. The screenplay, written by Lowell Ganz, is based on the best-selling novel by Billie Letts.
The film follows Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old girl from Tennessee, who sets out for California with her boyfriend. When they stop in Oklahoma at the local Walmart, her boyfriend abandons her. Since Novalee has only a few dollars, she secretly moves into the Wal-Mart store. She gives birth to her baby, attracting media attention, and she sets up a new life with the help of new friends. The film was released by 20th Century Fox on April 28, 2000.
Seventeen and pregnant, Novalee Nation (Natalie Portman) sets off on a road trip from Tennessee to California with her ignorant ne'er-do-well boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens (Dylan Bruno). In Sequoyah, Oklahoma, Novalee asks her boyfriend to stop at Wal-Mart so that she can go to the bathroom and replace her shoes. When Novalee comes back out of the Wal-Mart, she finds that her boyfriend has left.
For the rest of the afternoon, Novalee browses Wal-Mart. She meets Sister Husband (Stockard Channing), who mistakenly believes Novalee to be her long-lost relative, Ruth Ann, and gives her a buckeye tree. Later that evening, Novalee feels sick and runs into the bathroom to vomit, and when she comes out again she discovers that the store is closed, locked, and dark. She soon figures out how to live undetected in the Wal-Mart.
Novalee visits the library and meets Forney Hull (James Frain), who works at the library while caring for his sister (the librarian), whose health has been ruined by alcoholism. Over time, Forney reveals that he dropped out of Bowdoin College in Maine and tells Novalee that he had wanted to be a history teacher before he had to leave school. Novalee goes to Sister Husband's house and explains that she is not Ruth Ann. However, Sister Husband invites her in to stay for some cornbread and buttermilk, and Novalee plants the buckeye tree in Sister's yard.
That night in the Wal-Mart, Novalee goes into labor. Forney, who watched her go into the store at closing time, jumps through a plate-glass window and helps deliver her baby. The next morning, Novalee wakes up in the hospital, an instant celebrity after giving birth in a Wal-Mart, and is stalked by several newscasters all day. After being asked by her nurse Lexie Coop (Ashley Judd) what she will name her baby girl, Novalee decides to name her baby Americus. Novalee gets to know Lexie, who reveals that she has had four children by three different men. While in the hospital, Novalee gets a visit from her mother (Sally Field), whom she has not seen since she was a child. Her mother asks if she has a place to live. Novalee says no, and her mother says that the two women can get an apartment together. Novalee hands over the $500 that she was given by the president of the Wal-Mart chain to her mother. Novalee agrees that her mother can come pick her and Americus up at 9:00 a.m. the next day. The next morning, Novalee waits for almost three hours in the lobby, but her mother never shows up. That afternoon, Sister Husband offers to let Novalee and the baby live at her house.
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