Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Women

What's Your Dieting Secret?

Written and directed by Diane English, which is based on both the stage play by Clare Boothe Luce and the 1930s movie of the same name, The Women is an update of sorts transplanting stories about the love lives of 4 women friends to modern day New York City, but wait a minute, isn't this Sex in the City?

Not quite. For starters, this movie does not have a Mr Big. In fact, male characters get mentioned, but the high level of girl power meant that men are supposed to be mentioned, but never seen. Nada, zilch. In almost every scene you'll be hard pressed to find the male species in the movie, that you'll almost deem this a terribly sexist movie. The characters too seem like a throwback to SATC and while the characters here are less irritating and less bitchy, that however was part of the fun that was missing here.

It's not a bad story, but Diane English had made this feel more like one's watching a stage play rather than a movie. Dialogue becomes lines delivered on cue, with little emotion attached. The plot itself was quite thin, and one could see the actresses trying their best to make their characters seem as three-dimensional and as interesting as they can. Some make the grade, while others like Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing and Eva Mendes weren't given enough screen time to perform adequately.

While it preaches girl power, solidarity, empowerment and the likes, what this film essentially is, is a Meg Ryan and Annette Bening show. It's been a long time since I last saw Meg Ryan grace the screen locally, and surprisingly, it didn't seem that she has aged a bit. I deliberately tried to look out for tell tale signs of wrinkles, but age has been extremely kind to her. Annette Bening got the opposite, as she has visibly aged a bit, then again, she plays the more alpha-type role here that seems to be the unspoken leader of the womanly pack.

The characters here were a little like SATC's like a mentioned. Bening's Sylvia Fowler is a woman's magazine editor whose job is under threat from young upstarts brimming with fresh creativity. Ryan plays the all American lovely socialite wife Mary Haines juggling with family, career and various obligations, so much so that her husband finds enough time to engage in an extra-marital affair. Her story actually anchors the film and forms the pivot in which all other subplots revolve around. Eva Mendes plays the third party as cosmetics girl Crystal Allen, who hooks up with Mary's husband just because of his social standing and platinum credit card. The typical gold-digger, her role is a typical vamp but much of her screen time shenanigans has already been exposed in the trailers.

Then there's homemaker Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) who's the mother hen of the lot with her many daughters, and is expecting once again, a task she'll not stop until she gives birth to a son. And Jada Pinkett Smith's Alex Fisher is a lesbian. Err, that's it, because I though Diane English had by the time ran out of ideas what to do with the latter two characters, that they get much reduced roles.

It's a plain and simple narrative delivered without much fanfare, but bolstered by female actresses whom those in my generation would have seen them on screen for a fair bit. And I thought the budget was provided to engage the services of the likes of Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher and even Bette Midler for guest roles, that there wasn't enough money left to hire male actors. So for a very focused and female centric film, The Women, like the title states, is all about the female of the species, the stereotypical woes that they face, and as with all things, everything can be improved with a change in haircut.

Unfortunately this movie comes censored, and the unceremonious cut was during a crucial montage sequence where Ryan's Mary Haines picks up the pieces and redesigns her life. I suspect that there was a lot more to it than just the systematic straightening of her hair though. Oh and do stay tuned for the coda at the end of the credits. With some subtle product placement from Dove used during the film, the coda was more explicit, and even had this look and feel of a Dove ad, but of course with the four lead actresses explaining what it takes and feels like to be a real woman. For those interested, I'll even plug the website here for you to visit:

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