It’s like deja vu

By Silvia de Somma

Fact: the world, at a population of about 6.7 billion, has a relatively even ratio of males to females. This reality seems to be completely unnoticable in The Women, which exaggerates the miniscule female advantage by excluding the male sex from the movie altogether. Not only do you never see their faces or hear their voices, but they’re even suspiciously absent from crowd scenes. It makes for an unsettling experience– two full hours of just women is a bit much for anybody. While it certainly pins the attention right where it should be, it’s just unnatural, which really embodies the movie as a whole.

The Women is a genuine attempt at a female empowerment movie, but falls short of its goal by sending out a convoluted message and mixing in unnecessary subplots.

Set in the modern day, upper-crust society of New York, the film focuses on designer/busy mother/philanthropist Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), her diverse group of friends and their attempts to reap revenge on her husband’s lower-class exotic mistress (Eva Mendes). Aided by an amazing supporting cast full of big names like Annette Benning, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen, the film barely squeaks by as a mildly humorous yet uplifting tale of self-discovery.

The trouble mainly arises because the movie is a remake of the well-known 1939 George Cukor original. Not only has the storyline been significantly reworked, but the message was also likely more poignant in ye olden days, when women’s position at home and in society was drastically different than it is now. The petty gossip and actions portrayed in the film seem realistic when played out by the stereotypical society women with too much time on her hands. Unfortunately for writer Diane English, her protagonists are working women with too much on their plates. It’s hard to accept entrepreneurs, mothers of five, authors and business women going out of their way to make mischief.

The movie’s message also gets a bit lost. Is it a statement on female independence, the importance of friendship or a commentary on the repercussions of having a career on top of a family life? There’s no rule that it can’t be all of the above, but The Women just doesn’t take a strong enough stand one way or another. Add to this an awkward side story involving Mary’s pre-teen daughter, the underexposure of the more interesting characters of the story, a predominantly unsympathetic protagonist and a rushed conclusion packing the moral in with cliched comedy, the movie seems unbalanced and weak.

The Women isn’t quite the groundbreaking endeavour it was 70 years ago and it’s more or less just a run-of-the-mill, feel-good tale of overcoming adversity to find yourself, tied in with a bit of infidelity and a makeover for good measure (because heaven forbid a female character finds confidence while still having curly hair!) Stilted dialogue and a hard to believe storyline makes for a slow moving and limp film that even a stellar cast can’t save.

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