The Women
dir-scr Diane English
with Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes, Cloris Leachman, India Ennenga, Tilly Scott Pedersen, Candice Bergen, Debi Mazar, Bette Midler, Carrie Fisher
release US/UK 12.Sep.08
08/US Picturehouse 1h54
The Women
Retail therapy: Ryan and Bening

messing pinkett smith mendes
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Women If you think of this remake of the 1939 classic as Sex and the City Lite, then it's perhaps not too bad: a smartly written and played film about women coping with modern life. Or at least a fantasy version of it.

Sylvia (Ryan) has it all: a successful husband, a smart daughter (Ennenga), stinking-rich parents and a gorgeous house in the suburbs. Then she finds out her husband is cheating on her with the perfume spritzer at Saks (Mendes) and her life falls apart. Her magazine editor best friend (Bening) actually knew about this several days earlier, but swore their other pals (Messing's earth mother and Pinkett Smith's feisty lesbian) to secrecy. And in this all-women world, she'll get advice from everyone around her, not all of it helpful.

Writer-director English accomplishes the nifty trick of only having women on screen, including crowded scenes in shops and on New York streets. Although men are almost the only thing these women talk about. If it weren't so gimmicky you'd hardly notice, because the characters on screen are lively and funny. While sharp dialog packed with witty, astute observations distracts us from the clunky, draggy direction.

Ryan and especially Bening make the most of their characters, drawing out inner shadings that bring them to life. Messing and Pinkett Smith are enjoyable as women who basically have one defining characteristic, which is played as overwhelmingly positive, and this also includes Mendes' other woman. But it's the sparkling veterans Leachman, Bergen and Midler who seize their small roles and steal every scene.

But we can tell from the opening credits that this is going to be a light and airy nothing of a film, and the insistently chirpy score (by the male composer Mark Isham) makes things worse. There is never even the remotest sense of real life here; these women are all hugely affluent, with untapped reserves of big money whenever they need it, so their problems feel superficial at best, and the plot feels almost painfully formulaic, right to the farcically rushed finale. At least the actors are strong enough to keep us engaged, and they deliver their lines impeccably, from the spicy comedy to the teary drama.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 9.Sep.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall