If The Shoe Fits...

Columbus Alive | October 6, 2005
After L.A. Confidential, The Wonder Boys and 8 Mile, director Curtis Hanson moves out of the boys’ club and into the cozy environs of chick lit for a screen adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s bestseller about battling sisters. With help, if you can call it that, from screenwriter Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich), Hanson does access his feminine side (two different men cringed when I described the film in detail). But both Hanson and Grant struggle with a common problem of playing to a niche—a tendency to condescend to it.

Toni Collette is responsible, frumpy elder sister Rose, a lawyer who’s replaced romance with Haagen Dazs and Jimmy Choos, and Cameron Diaz is younger sister Maggie, a larcenous party girl whose scattered behavior hides a secret learning disorder. Unemployed and homeless, Maggie stays with Rose, but is sent packing after she commits an unforgivable act. She disappears to Florida, where Maggie connects with Shirley MacLaine’s Ella, a grandmother neither sister knew they had.

Freed of their lifelong roles of screw-up and screw-up’s caretaker, both sisters find unorthodox paths to happiness, Rose by giving up her law career to become a dog-walker and Maggie by receiving wisdom from, and giving fashion tips to, the spry old folks of Ella’s retirement community.

The always solid Collette and MacLaine, and the occasionally surprising Diaz, all maintain their dignity in their parts. But Hanson and Grant don’t develop any sense of the sisterly bond that’s supposed to exist between Rose and Maggie before it’s tested, and Maggie’s flightiness is used as a too-convenient explanation for why no one other than Rose misses her while she’s gone, even when she doesn’t show for the bridal shower preceding Rose’s marriage to the ultimate single-girl get, a handsome Jewish lawyer (Mark Feuerstein). Meanwhile, what would seem to be a major character flaw in Ella is glossed over with a few trite phrases.

The implication in this movie and some others of its kind is that women don’t care about genuine characters, plausible scenarios or romantic partners with more weight than cardboard as long as they get a badly warped body image with which to commiserate and a neatly wrapped happy ending to cheer for. To this way of thinking, In Her Shoes delivers in spades.

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Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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