Review: ‘The Women’ – Return to Lady World

With trepidation I saw The Women, Diane English’s remake of the 1939 film that features an all-female cast and a whole lot of squabbling and fussing.  After my last viewing of a film clearly aimed at women (which was more traumatic than I would have ever anticiapted), I was not too enthused about taking another journey to Secret Lady World, that mythical, amorphous place where female wish fulfillment and cinema have a heart-to-heart.

For a dude who’s favorite films this year have been The Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk, the thought of watching an all-female cast (there are no men onscreen, not even in the background) talk about friendship sounded like an overlong episode of The Golden Girls.  (I was only half right–the movie overstays its welcome by a good thirty minutes.)

What’s it about? Mary (Meg Ryan) is the seemingly perfect wife and mother whose marriage isn’t what it used to be.  Sylvie (Annette Bening) is Mary’s best friend and the editor-in-chief of a woman’s magazine that’s about to fizzle.  Inexplicably, these two are also friends with Edie (Debra Messing), a very fertile bohemian stay-at-home-mom, and Alex (Jada Pinkett-Smith), a sassy lesbian author.  They live in New York and/or Conneticut in beautiful homes and love to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue.  Sylvie discovers that Mary’s husband is having an affair with Crystal (Eva Mendes), a spritzer girl at Saks, and debates whether or not to tell Mary.

On her own, Mary discovers her husband’s infidelity, which leads both her and Sylvie playing the “why didn’t you tell me you knew?” game, to which there is never a winner.  Mary leaves her husband and Sylvie ends up disclosing the affair to a columnist at the New York Post (Carrie Fisher) in order to save her job.

Will Mary and Sylvie ever be friends again?  (This is as chick flick-ish as one you could possibly get, so the answer, without spoiling anything, is yes.)

What’s good about it? Candace Bergin has a supporting role as Mary’s mother, Catherine.  She is, hands down, the best thing in this film.  One scene in particular allows Bergen to shine, where Catherine reveals to her daughter that her marriage to her father hasn’t exactly been the bed of roses Mary thought it was.

What’s bad about it? As I mentioned previously the film is overlong by at least a half hour.  Prudence in the editing room would have resulted in a tighter, breezier movie, but instead there are completely useless detours (like Bette Midler’s entire performance, which is not only unnecessary but hammy and grating) and needless characters (Messing and Pinkett-Smith’s characters are not the only women this movie could have done without).

The main foci of The Women are the two relationships in Mary’s life: Mary and Sylvie and Mary and her husband.  But by adhering to the concept of a women-only world, Mary might as well be married to a ghost.  We hear Mary–and only Mary–yelling in an offscreen argument with the husband while the maid (Cloris Leachman) and the nanny (Tillie Scott Pederson) discuss what’s going on in the next room.  This relationship that apparently means so much to Mary is sorely underdeveloped, and thus becomes uninteresting because we are denied the whole picture.

Perfect for: fans of any of the cast.

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One Response to “Review: ‘The Women’ – Return to Lady World”

  1. Theresa Says:

    this movie killed me. my sister straight up laid down in the theatre (5 of us were there…total) and fell asleep. unreal.

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