Film Reviews

THE WOMEN

By • Sep 7th, 2008 •

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I want to visit Diane English’s world. How much does a spaceflight to the planet HD 209458b (in the constellation Pegasus) cost?

THE WOMEN opens like a dreadful Mary Tyler Moore sitcom music as two over-privileged women snap at each other when their pampered dogs meet on a New York City street. It only gets worse.

I was ashamed to be a woman after seeing this movie and glad I have no women friends. Diane English, who has nurtured this pet project for decades, updated and revised the original and much beloved play by Clare Boothe Luce and the George Cukor 1939 film.

Why?

Maybe if you are a woman living in rural America without a TV or the internet, this is an inspirational story of what to do if your husband is carrying on an affair with a salesgirl and your mother is obscenely wealthy and can fund your creative dream. You get to throw your hat up in the air and achieve success!

The Vanity Fair style socialites depicted here would be far more sophisticated about dalliances by their millionaire husbands. In real life “high society”, Jackie Kennedy takes pride of place. As long as the husband doesn’t release a home-made sex tape with an 18- year-old Russian bar girl and demand she get on the Board of Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, these socialites would know revenge trumps divorce.

Mary Haines (Meg Ryan, who now shows emotion solely by flapping her arms and tossing her halo of fake blond curls), is a cherub-happy, privileged wife of a powerful and very successful tycoon. She lives in a Connecticut mansion with her tween daughter, Molly (India Ennenga), a housekeeper, Maggie (Cloris Leachman), a Danish au-pair gal, Uta (Tilly Scott Pedersen), whose job is to keep the housekeeper company, and a gaggle of high-maintenance girl friends from college: Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening) is the editor of a women’s magazine without a personal life; Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) is a woman of privilege with three small daughters and a house filled with chaos and helpers; and Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith), the token lesbian writer.

A Saks Fifth Avenue manicurist, Tanya (Debi Mazar), is telling everyone who will listen, even the New York homeless, that the perfume counter-girl, Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), is having an affair with a highly visible, very wealthy married man. He’s Stephen Haines!

Saks would immediately fire the loudmouth manicurist for gossiping and not knowing her clientele.

Clueless Mary, the good child-woman, is utterly shocked, as are her horrified girlfriends, that Stephen is cheating on her with the tart at the Saks perfume counter. When Sylvia and Mary nurse the wound of Mary’s betrayal at the Saks lingerie department, they run right into Crystal.

Except for the really clever lines I assume were gifts from Carrie Fisher in exchange for a one-scene pivotal role, THE WOMEN is poorly directed and, even worse, dated. It’s embarrassing. Fisher is known as a brilliant script doctor and she wastes great lines here. However, her small role turns the script around. It’s called the ‘Second Turning Point’ in Scriptwriting 101. I’m impressed that Diane English, who has had a long career in television, doesn’t know more about high-achieving straying husbands and how their Ritalin-prescribed wives look the other way while maintaining their social standing and charity work.

THE WOMEN kills the hope for more women-oriented films like “Sex and the City” promised. And to all the actresses who turned down THE WOMEN, the studios and executives who passed on this project, this time you got it right.

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