The Women, the all-chick flick update of the 1939 classic comedy by the same name, opens today and has the unfortunate reputation of not being very good. The film has an all-star cast (Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Eva Mendes) and is written and directed by Diane English, a writer and producer for Murphy Brown. The premise of The Women doesn't stray far from the original - rich woman's husband cheats on her with a salesgirl - but the minor details of the story have been updated to fulfill a laundry list of contemporary issues and ultimately makes the update less funny and more of a sappy "BFFs Foreva!" failure. Read the reviews, after the jump.The Los Angeles Times:
After this initial setup, however, "The Women" becomes unfocused as it stumbles over all the points it wants to make. Given English's writing skills, the dialogue doesn't help as much as it should, tending too much toward one-liners that aim for raunchy whenever possible. Never particularly believable, the story quickly unravels into schematic contrivance and wish-fulfillment fantasy. The actresses all try hard to bring a project they clearly believe in to life, but that is rarely enough. It's hard to say what's sadder, that "The Women's" intended audience had to wait 14 years for a film like this or that that long wait has been almost for naught.
The Women is such an arduous patchwork of ''issues'' it ends up a Frankenstein's monster of a chick flick. The movie is a feminist lesson instead of what it should have been (and once was): a tough, synthetic, high-gloss entertainment that wears its heart on its lacquered fingernails.
But that does not address the piece's fundamental problem, namely that it is not now and never has been funny. Or even human. In the previous movie version, as in this one (and I'll bet in the play itself) all the actresses strike comedic poses. They sashay about, rolling their eyes, pouting their lips, making big gestures and talking really fast. It's essentially an antique theatrical manner, the falsity of which the movie camera, dialing in for its close-ups (and even its two shots) exposes as relentlessly now as it did 69 years ago. No one ever gets to act - and this is a cast rich in good actresses - if by acting you mean the expression of authentic emotions. They are caught up in a zip-zap frenzy of words - and it is interesting how many lines in this script can be traced back to the Boothe original, which would not have been all that difficult to improve upon.
It's as if English missed the point. The Women was not about the healing bonds of friendship. It was about humorous revenge. Though aspects of the 1939 comedy seem silly and shrill now, they were at least consistently entertaining. Where the original was deliciously loopy and melodramatic fun, this one is watered-down, sappy and earnest.
The original, bitchier, less girlfriendy version of "The Women" was a product of a less empowered era. This new version is meant to reflect how far we've come, with ads encouraging us to gather our friends and see it together. Of course the filmmakers want to rally female viewers en masse, because you can be damn sure that nothing with a penis is getting anywhere near this thing. And yet, contrary to what Hollywood or Washington or Madison Avenue may believe, women don't, in fact, possess a hive mind. We don't all like yoga and eat sticks of butter when we're depressed, and we don't all travel in packs to see crappy movies. Human nature is complicated like that. Why isn't my gender rioting in the streets over this femmey stereotyping BS? I can only hope it's because we've got our hands full fending off the widespread belief that we'll put anybody with two X chromosomes in the White House.
At the heart of the hectic story is Mary's discovery that her husband is having an affair with Crystal (Eva Mendes), a gold-digging vixen who works at the perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue. The strain of top-down class resentment in the way her character is portrayed - mean, selfish, cheap and vulgar - is perhaps the most shocking thing about the movie, and also, perhaps, the most honest. At bottom, this is less a movie about defending a marriage or battling for a man than it is about the protection of social privilege. Out in the suburbs, the loyal servants stand by their mistress (and seem to have no private lives or desires of their own), while in the city the lower orders scheme and gossip and connive to steal what can never be rightfully theirs. And of course, the heroic women of "The Women" will not concede without a fight. But rarely has class struggle, or catfighting, for that matter, been so tediously waged. And rarely have so many fine actresses been enlisted in such a futile cause. They all deserved better, and it hurts especially to watch Ms. Bening and Candice Bergen (who plays Mary's mother) lend their wit and dignity to a project that has so little of its own.
When George Cukor directed his version of Claire Boothe Luce's play The Women in 1939, he stuck to its main conceit by making the entire movie a male-free zone – unless you count some sexually ambiguous lapdogs in the opening sequence. This week's remake, written and directed by Diane English, obeys the rule reverently (until its final scene), a curious choice for a film that holds womankind in such open contempt. If you don't have anything nice to say about an entire gender, why restrict your options so?
To fit in with political correctness and the taste for female bonding which made such a hit out of Sex And The City, an acerbic satire on shallow socialites has been transformed into a cosy celebration of friendship among smug, middle-class women. This is not an improvement.
The Women boasts the novelty of not featuring a single man in the entire film, save for a newborn baby boy, while most of the conversation revolves around sex, shopping and plastic surgery which are, apparently, the secrets of a fulfilled life. Shallow? Definitely. Any good? Not really. And you can't help watching the thing without thinking of Sex And The City's dumber cousin.
It would be sad if Tinseltown used this poorly executed remake as proof that there's no audience for female-driven films, because that's not the case at all. The women of America really are hungry for movies made by us, about us, and for us. And we're willing to pony up at the box office to prove it. But that doesn't mean that just any shoddy, "You go girl!" script can earn our loyalty. Please Hollywood: write truthfully for us, and from the heart. It's what Carrie Bradshaw would do.
Related: The Women— Witty Moments (1939) [YouTube]
'The Women' opens today, nationwide.