Under the direction of Curtis Hanson and oddly produced by the brothers Scott (Ridley and Tony), “In Her Shoes” is the most overly dramatic and estrogen-filled motion picture since Garry Marshall’s “Beaches.” Instead of following a long journey of friendship, we ride along on a roller coaster of emotion with two sisters, Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose Feller (Toni Collette), hitting every curve of painful heartbreak and loop of sentimentality at full speed. This cinematic adventure lasts just over two hours; so don’t be surprised if you hurl up some lunch on the poor sap sitting in the row ahead of you.
“In Her Shoes” begins by contrasting just how different these two sisters are from each other. Maggie – the ‘loose’ cannon – is an illiterate and promiscuous alcoholic with not a care in the world or a steady job to occupy her time. She uses her body to get what she wants while Rose – the older one – is the intellect, the sister that actually has her own place to live accompanied by a lucrative career as a lawyer. With that stereotype also comes the lack of self-esteem and the so-called “weight problem” we’ve seen so many times before with these characters.
Used to her little sister showing up in the middle of the night intoxicated, we quickly learn that Rose will bail Maggie out of any trouble she gets into. Until the day her little sister sleeps with her newly found boyfriend. Insert family fight scene here, then watch Maggie pack up a single garbage bag of belongings and head to Florida, to discover a grandmother she never thought existed.
At this point (almost an hour in), the uncomfortably slow pace begins to pick up steam and the word “interesting” was finally written down in my shabby notebook. Prior to Maggie’s arrival, we are exposed to the world her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) lives in. A wonderful retirement community where everyone introduces himself or herself by giving their name, the amount of years gone by since their spouses died, and the disease that did it. There is an interesting world going on here, yet, it isn’t given the amount of attention it truly deserves. When Maggie finally arrives, the sisterhood drama is thrown back in and the seniors are put on the back burner.
Director Curtis Hanson is no stranger to bringing novels to life on screen but with “In Her Shoes,” it’s a little difficult to comprehend why, of all the books on Earth, he chose this material. It’s obvious he has a thing with realistic and emotionally appealing characters. “L.A. Confidential” (based on the novel by James Ellroy) was a blistering look at three very different policemen each trying to solve the same case. “Wonder Boys” (based on the novel by Michael Chabon) had equally interesting characters, each dealing with a mid-life crises of sorts that was both funny and poignant. The Feller sisters just don’t carry the same kind of weight. We’ve seen them a thousand times before and we’ll probably see them a thousand times more.
For you guys out there stuck with a lady-friend looking for that “Beaches” replacement, here it is. It’s going to be a long ride, which at some point, you might find yourself wishing that you too had a vagina because that’s exactly the tool this film was made to work with. I’m not saying that because I am insensitive or emotionless or overly-masculine (hey, I own a copy of “Moulin Rouge”). I’m simply trying to do my part in preparing you as best as I could.
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