The Women (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 120 minutes.
George Cukor’s 1939 film,
from Anita Loos’s script of Claire Booth Luce’s 1936 play, “The Women,”
was a scathing satirical indictment of upper class New York City women.
Diane English has updated it to fit 21st-Century New York
City. Unfortunately, English has dumped the idea of a satire. Instead,
English, better known as the producer of the hit TV sitcom “Murphy
Brown,” says she wanted to “celebrate women.” This is 180 degrees from
what Luce, Loos, and Cukor accomplished, which was to skewer shallow
Manhattan society women. As a result, this is a completely different
idea. From a clever, biting commentary with real meat, English has just
produced yet another chick flick of little or no import. English is so
blinded by her feminism that she doesn’t realize that she has presented
the women she wants to celebrate as the pretty much the same shallow
airheads created by Luce & Co. If English thinks her movie “celebrates
women,” that’s a pretty scathing indictment of her opinion of women.
English has the same
problem that the creators of “Sex and the City” have, inability to write
believable dialogue. Even though this is a comedy (alas, it never rises
to the level of satire and to give English credit, she apparently wasn’t
trying to be satirical), surely women don’t talk with each other like
this. The woman who accompanied me to the screening, a professional
woman who is also the mother of five, assured me they don’t, and she
hated the film.
An additional problem for
English, who both wrote and directed, is that she doesn’t know when to
let well enough alone. This drags on for two hours when even ninety
minutes probably would have been too much.
I mean, really, this is
about how the illicit affair that the husband of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan)
is having with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes) affects her relationships with
her friends, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), Edie Cohen (Debra Messing),
Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith), her mother, Catherine Frazier (Candice
Bergen), and her daughter, Molly (India Ennenga). That shouldn’t take
Actually, there are some
pretty funny lines in the film. What English needed was a good editor
who could leave some of what she wrote on the cutting room floor. When a
writer directs her own script, I guess it’s impossible to cut anything
the writer wrote.
The film is entirely women.
There is not one man in the film, period. Even the crew is virtually all
female. This single-minded obsession to not have one man in the film (“I
remembered the old movie…and how fun it was that there was not a man in
sight,” says English) lessened the quality of the film because the film
cried out for us to actually meet Mary’s philandering husband. Alas,
‘tis not to be.
The film starts out kind of
slow with unconvincing bonding among the friends, then picks up
throughout the middle part as Mary tries to deal with her husband’s
infidelity and the betrayal of her best friend, Sylvie. Then it just
drags on too long.
Even so, I enjoyed it, hard
as that may to believe after reading what I just wrote. The acting is
pretty good. Mendes stands out as the airhead mistress and Bening
improves after a weak start. And, as I said, there are some funny lines.
September 8, 2008