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Film Reviews: Wednesday, October 05, 2005
In Her Shoes
Starring Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz. Directed by Curtis Hanson. Written by Susannah Grant, based on Jennifer Weiner’s novel. Rated PG-13.
Heeling a Rift

When you’ve walked a mile In Her Shoes, the last half isn’t as good as the first.

By KRISTIAN LIN

I’ve always resisted the categories of “chick flick” and “chick lit” because they’re dismissive labels filled with lingering sexism. It’s true, there are hundreds of crappy movies and books every year pitched at women, but nobody shrugs off the equally crappy paperback thrillers and action pictures aimed at men the same way. Jennifer Weiner’s novel In Her Shoes may have appealed to female readers familiar with fashion brand names, but it was good literature, telling the story of two sisters from Philadelphia, the older one an overweight and lonely successful attorney named Rose, and the younger a beautiful and totally hapless party girl named Maggie. The book’s strength came from Weiner’s ability to get inside the minds of these two women who regard each other with profound exasperation on one side and jealous resentment on the other. Besides their upbringing by a widowed dad, the only thing the sisters seem to share is a taste for designer footwear.

The movie version stars Cameron Diaz as Maggie and Toni Collette (is there an Oscar-nominated actor her age who’s less appreciated?) as Rose, and, much like the book, it’s long on character insight and short on plotting. The first half is pretty good, as Susannah Grant’s quick-witted script is shaped into fleet, pointed, illuminating scenes by director Curtis Hanson. Then the initial comic energy dissipates over the movie’s meandering, long-drawn-out second half. Perhaps the movie depends so much on its fractured sibling relationship that it loses its zip when the sisters go their separate ways. Whatever the reason, it’s too bad that Hanson couldn’t patch up the book’s flaws the way he improved on L.A. Confidential.

The film is properly cast, with Shirley MacLaine reining in her hammier instincts as the sisters’ long-lost grandmother in Florida who takes in Maggie. As for Diaz, this is her first real acting job in years, and she’s definitely out of practice; the Diaz of 1997-98 would have nailed this part. Even so, she has some really good moments, especially in a pivotal scene midway through when Maggie, reacting to being thrown out of a fed-up Rose’s apartment, retaliates by bedding Rose’s boyfriend (Richard Burgi). The scene that results when Rose walks in on them is only about 75 percent as horrible as it should be, but Collette nicely underplays the humiliation and rage, and it ends with Diaz’ burst of tears as Maggie realizes how low she’s sunk.

One final note: Sophie de Rakoff’s costumes are some of the best-looking you’ll find in a Hollywood movie with a contemporary setting. This is a crucial point, since dressing well is one of the only things Maggie knows how to do and takes any pride in. In Her Shoes will be mandatory viewing for clothes connoisseurs, not to mention shoe fetishists. For the rest of us, the movie is a lost opportunity, a film that could have been something special but instead wanders into mediocrity.


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