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:: The Women

An inconsistent yet at times wickedly astute film, The Women makes sharp observations about the power of gossip, the hypocrisy of glamour magazines, and the influence both have on young girls finding their way as women in the modern world. Ultimately though, this is a story about how betrayal from those close to you can reap unexpected rewards.

It is a remake of the 1939 classic which starred Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosallind Russell, and Joan Fontaine, among many others. Likewise, this 2008 update boasts a star studded all female cast. The film stars Meg Ryan as part time clothes designer, full time social hound, faithful wife, and inadequate mother Mary Haines. Her best friend is high class magazine editor Sylvia Fowler (Annette Benning), a childless, single woman whose career comes before anything else. Rounding out Mary’s group of friends is Debra Messing’s conservative baby machine Edith Potter, and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s spunky lesbian novelist Miriam Aarons. When Mary is informed that her husband of thirteen years is having an affair with Saks perfume lady Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), the loyalty of her friends is put to the test when they all react to the news differently. Through the advice of her mother (Candice Bergen), and various other elder women throughout the course of the picture (Chloris Leachman, Bette Midler), Mary embarks on an emotional journey to find just what she wants out of life, while her daughter (India Ennenga) wanders alone without the guidance of her mother.

Diane English – who won many awards as the head writer for Murphy Brown – has crafted some rather amusing scenarios (Benning’s shopping radar at the start of the film is a highlight), while also directing her vast array of female actors to noteworthy performances. Meg Ryan has not been this witty or appealing in years; Annette Benning drives home the posh bitch shtick; Eva Mendes is perfectly cast as the home wrecking sexpot; veteran actresses Cloris Leachman and Candice Bergen are a hoot while dispensing pearls of wisdom; and Bette Midler shines as a serial divorcee. But all are left in the dust by Debra Messing, whose key comedic timing and chirpy naturality steals the show. A birth sequence at the end of the film displays her comedic skills to fine effect, and is the best scene in the movie.

Missing from The Women is the fact that there are no men. While male characters are mentioned throughout the film, said characters are usually portrayed as rather offensive stereotypes with either cheating spouses, insensitive fathers, or power hungry bosses the caricatures used and abused.
What we are left with are rich, materialistic women who have a full time housekeeper and tutor to tend to home life, a huge garden to host social events, and deep pockets able to shop in high class department stores.

In short, The Women only offers an airbrushed version of life which not many of us can relate to. Give us a story about a group of women who are struggling with mortgage payments, maternity leave, career advancement, social issues such as abortion and contraception, stretch marks, the highs and lows of marriage, the joy and burden of children, the stigma of being single, body image, and any other real issues facing the majority of women in our day and age, and perhaps a better understanding and wonder of the female sex could be achieved. As it stands, The Women feels out of touch and out of step