Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Women

The Women
2008. Rated PG-13, 114 minutes.
Director: Diane English.
Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher, Cloris Leachman.

Plot: When Mary (Ryan) finds out her husband is cheating on her with perfume sales clerk Crystal (Mendes), her friends and her mom try to guide her through the tough times. Remake of the 1939 film of the same name.

The Good: We have a cast of rom-com all stars giving it their melodramatic best. Each of the ladies makes the most of what their roles have to offer. The pacing and humor are major plusses. It's not fall-off-your-chair funny but it does elicit some laughs. Combine that with a script that pluckily pushes us along from one girl talk scene to the next and you get a fairly quick moving affair (I know, bad pun given the movie's premise). Also a number of recognizable, some even iconic, actresses turn up in bit parts including Cloris Leachman, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher and Debi Mazar.

The Bad: What starts off as a daring artistic choice ends up gimmicky and frustrating. That choice is deciding to not have any males in the movie. In a movie centered around a crumbling marriage, its hard to come off as anything other than man-bashing when it refuses to even show a man. There aren't even any male extras (more on that in a moment). This is illuminated most when you think about Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith). Putting aside the reality that she comes off like a token black, we see she's also the surrogate man. She has what could be a man's name, she's a lesbian so she's obviously into women, a bit of a slacker who parties too much and is generally straight-forward with her views. She is every bit an attempt to give male viewers someone to relate to. And she also helps maintain the ladies only motif by taking our crew to an all-lesbian restaraunt. This scene and the street scenes are filled with beautiful female extras (told you I'd get back to this) and appear solely as an effort to hold guys' attention. The same seems true for the casting of Mendes who's part could've been played by any number of starlets. However, by not having any males at all to project onto we get a strange phenomena. Men in the audience feel attacked and female viewers can only unsatisfyingly beat up a faceless enemy. Well, in the end (spoiler?) there is one male character shown but it feels like a slap in the face. It's like the filmmakers telling us "This is all you get, now be happy with it."

The Ugly: This is a completely different movie if our girls pick somewhere else to get their nails done.

Recommendation: This is pretty much for fans of rom-coms. Once you peel back the complicated layers you'll see its the same old stuff Ryan, Messing and the rest have been doing for years. The difference is that those other movies make men caricatures and have them follow the same developmental arc while this one dispenses with them completely and doesn't even pretend to care to give them a chance to put in their two cents. This is interesting at first, but wears thin about halfway through.

The Opposite View: Bob Bloom, Jounal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

What the Internet Says: 4.8/10 on (5/22/09), 13% on, 27/100 on

MY SCORE: 5/10

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