Film Reviews

IN HER SHOES

By • Oct 7th, 2005 •

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20th Century Fox / Fox 2000 / Scott Free / Deuce Three Productions
Running time — 131 minutes / MPAA rating PG-13

It’s certainly true that IN HER SHOES is a reclamation project along the lines of Cinderella: if neither is entirely believable, well, did you really think the glass slipper was always going to fit? But did that stop you from enjoying the story? Or, depending on your sex (maybe not), think that you too might be getting the prince?

So it is with the movie starring Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz, a story of sisters that starts out silly and ends up earnest. If it weren’t for Diaz playing—of course—the silly one, it might not have worked. But she makes the transition from boozing bed-hopper to poetry-spouting entrepreneur quite credible. And she gets better looking with each new layer of discipline.

Lest I be taken to task for this possibly sexist remark, let me cover by saying that one of the more p.c. things about the film is that Collette talks about—and keeps—a layer of chubbiness throughout the film. And this doesn’t seem to deter a guy or two, one of whom is charmingly played by Mark Feuerstein.

Plus, in a nice irony, the serious, high achieving sibling–a Princeton trained lawyer, played by Collette– is actually the one with the extensive shoe collection. As cleverly written by screenwriter Susannah Grant (of ERIN BROCKAVICH fame) Collette explains that “Clothes never look any good, food just makes me fatter. Shoes are the only thing that fits.” By now, these topics are a mini-tradition: the sisterly heart-to-hearts of chick flicks, layered with “Sex in the City” discussions about thongs and Jimmy Choos.

About a third of the way in, the film segues into the emotive territory of a James Brooks movie. But director Curtis Hanson (WONDER BOYS, LA CONFIDENTIAL) saves IN HER SHOES from the sometimes sloppy sentimentality of a TERMS OF ENDEARMENT due to a highly intelligent, never over-the-top performance by Shirley MacLaine as the sisters’ long-lost grandmother. MacLaine lives in a retirement community in Florida, a clever contrast to the increasingly snowy Philadelphia of the film’s opening. Her pals make for some very witty characters: slyly sure of themselves, not the condescended-to stereotypes usually given to the AARP crowd. If a first date consists of doing the laundry together, one of them asks “What do you think a first date looks like at our age? Bungy jumping?’’ And then there’s the cleverly arranged shots of some of the women together: a kind of girl group you might think of as “The Grandmothers.”

Is there a role reversal or even a doppelganger theme as the title suggests? Not exactly. It’s more like role transcendence, expressing the sentiment (though used in the 1994 LITTLE WOMEN) that being sisters may make for a stronger bond even than love or marriage. Happily, both leads are clever enough to not make this seem tendentious.

Besides, the emotional makeovers—plus the wardrobe upgrades–are a darn sight better than those on all those TV shows where most of the time the “befores” are better than the “afters.”


Cast:
Cameron Diaz
Toni Collette
Shirley MacLaine
Mark Feuerstein
Ken Howard
Candice Azzara

Credits:
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Written by Susannah Grant
Produced by Ridley Scott, Lisa Ellzey, Curtis Hanson, Carol Fenelon
Executive produced by Tony Scott
Director of photography: Terry Stacey
Production designer: Dan Davis
Costumes: Sophie de Rakoff
Music: Mark Isham
Edited by Craig Kitson, Lisa Zeno Churgin

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