Advice for Sandra Bullock, From Sandra Bullock

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Twentieth Century Fox

When news broke that The Blind Side star Sandra Bullock left her husband Jesse James because he cheated on her with a model named Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, everyone wanted to know, "What happened?"

Some blamed the Oscar curse—Bullock, who was just awarded her first Academy Award earlier this month, joins a long list of actresses whose relationships fall apart after winning one. Others point to James—the mistress claims he told her he was separated, and that she'd never have gotten into the relationship if she'd known he was still married.

But the real question is: What's next for Bullock? What do you do when your husband's been unfaithful and the whole world knows about it?

There are any number of Hollywood actresses and politicians' wives who could offer Bullock advice, but she could also ask herself for some help—or, rather, a character she played in the 1998 movie Hope Floats: Birdee Pruitt:

The film follows Birdee from the moment she finds out, on national television, that her best friend is sleeping with her husband, to her journey back to Texas to regroup. It offers several lessons for how to recover from a high-profile breakup:

1.) Go home For Birdee, that meant returning to Smithville, Texas; for Bullock, that would mean going back to Arlington, VA. Wherever home is, go there—it's the place to be with the people who loved you long before you met your cheating husband.

2.) Take your daughter with you After the affair revelation, Birdee poured herself into caring for her daughter. Bullock has no children of her own, but she fought for custody of James' child from his marriage to porn star Janine Lindemulder. Even though things didn't work out with James, Bullock can still be a mother to this girl she loves.

3.) Be ready for some schadenfreude When Birdee tries to get a job back home in Smithville, the woman at the employment agency says, her voice dripping with sarcasm, "I'm not likely to find a listing for prom queen." In other words, she's relishing the fact that former cheerleader Birdee is finally eating some lumps. Bullock might have to confront the same feelings from friends and fans—Hollywood's sweetheart she may be, but everyone loves watching the most popular girl in school fall flat on her face.

4.) Be nice to the handsome man from your past who wants to woo you As soon as Birdee's high school classmate Justin Matisse (played by Harry Connick, Jr.) walks onscreen for the first time, the audience knows the pair is going to end up a couple at the end of the movie. Of course, Birdee doesn't—she resists his attempts at romance at first, still thinking of herself as a married woman. Bullock should skip the loyalty-to-her-husband bit when the next guy comes along—James doesn't deserve it, and she should move on.

Presented by

Eleanor Barkhorn is a former senior editor at The Atlantic.

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