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THE WOMEN, 2008
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THE WOMEN
Essay on the Film
Directed by Diane English
Starring Meg Ryan, Annette Betting, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Candice Bergman
by Jen Frankel



SYNOPSIS:

A wealthy New Yorker leaves her cheating husband and bonds with other society women at a resort.

ESSAY of the FILM:

The Woman Stand Up To (and Utterly Obliterate) Stereotypes

After watching Meg Ryan and Annette Bening in The Women, I can't help feeling that some of the brutally hateful reviewers were watching a different film entirely.

Here's a grown-up Sex In The City, another film that was dragged through the proverbial muck by a lot of critics, and somehow its three dimensional, sympathetic characters are re-imagined in prose as shameful stereotypes, whining and whinging their ways through a shallow script without any kind of steady hand on the helm.

This is bizarre at the best, and a grave disservice to Diana English (Murphy Brown). There's only one shallow woman in this film, and she's the one that bears the most resemblance to the typical screen female - the conniving, selfish, immature "spritzer girl" played with fiendish, slutty glee by Eva Mendes.

And while the story turns on the affair that Mendes's character is having with the husband of Meg Ryan's, this film skips the typical path of focusing on the players in that betrayal to take a closer look at the devastating effect on the heartbroken wife and her circle of best girlfriends.

There is so much history and good will between these characters I can't fathom the inability of so many reviewers to find the least bit of sympathy between them. After sitting through so

many films where the women screech, or scream, or seem to be there merely to ask the main character "What do you mean?" (ala Sigorney Weaver's brilliant turn as the token woman in the sci fi comedy Galaxy Quest) it was an absolute pleasure to come out of a movie not feeling slightly dirty. Every time I have to tacitly edit as I watch a movie, pretending to myself that the female characters are actually realistic and not heinous cartoons (like watching Al Pacino work his way through a series of decent actresses pretending to be bimbos in 88 Minutes), I feel I need a shower.

The Women, on the other hand, feels natural. It feels real. And I felt washed clean, leaving the theatre with a bunch of other women and a few men with all of us in conspicuous good humor.

Maybe the film tried to cover a few too many themes. Not only does it take on the difficult concept of recovering a feeling of power and security after a major life shake-up, it talks about integrity, career, personal goals, sacrifice, growing up, growing old, friendships, body image, heartache, and the quest for fulfillment.

But maybe it's just opened up a brand new avenue for future films to travel. And I don't mean just for future "chick flicks" that critics will deride and male comics will mock. These characters talk like women, fight like women, and laugh like women. They're fully engaged with the story and their own lives.

The film is also full of some of the most hilarious comic moments ever, some over the top hysterical and some just uniquely and surprisingly funny, like Ryan's choice of break-up comfort food in a house stripped of junk (I will never look at a stick of butter the same way again!) >

Its maturity is the antithesis of the late spate of Judd Apatow comedies with their gross-out immaturity and cardboard females. I hope that the appearance of The Women is a sign the pendulum may be swinging another way, toward the sophisticated adulthood of films of the 50s. It's startlingly to me that in a Hollywood that is constantly seeking older films to remake that the era of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Lauren Bacall remains nearly untouched.

Let's hope the pendulum keeps moving in that direction! And critics grow up!

The Women is a must see film!center>

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