The Women

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Posted September 10, 2008 in Film

TV writer and first-time director Diane English spent 12 years slaving to get her remake of the 1939 George Cukor classic green-lighted, an astounding output of time and energy for a person to spend on a movie they don’t understand. Cukor and playwright Clare Booth Luce’s scandalous society dames were well-mannered savages; they tore each other apart for sport, but purred their condolences. Here, English has reduced villainous gossip Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening) and her coterie to a gaggle of girls with good intentions. Instead of sharing men, they could share traveling pants. Fowler’s picked up a nasty bit of buzz from manicurist Debi Mazar: doe-naif Mary (Meg Ryan, squeezing out the last drops of her ’80s glow) doesn’t know her husband is stepping out with a two-bit shop girl (Eva Mendes). Joan Crawford—herself a round-heeled, blue-collar viper—originated the home-wrecking role, and while it’s cruel to expect Mendes to measure up, she’s shamefully undermined by a script that sees her as nothing more that a pair of melons. Cukor and Luce also gave her brains—six decades later, the pen that once wrote Murphy Brown has women step back? Instead of eviscerating female fakery, English’s insistence on putting the blame on men strips her ladies of wit and power. And where the original balanced catty fun with odd but affecting moments of emotional candor—as when Norma Shearer’s Mary painfully devalued her pride—apparently in today’s world there’s no heartbreak that can’t be fixed with shoes. I recommend boots with straps we can use to pull up our self-image from the shopping mall’s gutter. (Amy Nicholson)


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