Straight-laced Rose breaks off relations with her party girl sister, Maggie, over an indiscretion involving Rose's boyfriend. The chilly atmosphere is broken with the arrival of Ella, the grandmother neither sister knew existed.
Two sisters, plus a dead mother, a remarried father, and a hostile step-mother. The sisters, each in her way, have perfected the art of losing. The elder, Rose, is an attorney, responsible, lonely, with a closet full of shoes. The younger is Maggie, beautiful, selfish, and irresponsible. Her drunken behavior gets her tossed by her step-mother from her dad's house; worse behavior gets her tossed from Rose's apartment. Then, while searching in her father's desk for money to filch, Maggie finds an address; the past and the future open up to her and, with any luck, may open to her sister as well. Written by
"In Her Shoes" is noteworthy for its crisp dialogue, lively repartee, and multi-dimensional characters, For her novel and for her screenplay, Jennifer Weiner and Susannah Grant, respectively, both deserve an extra curtain call for exemplary work.
Because of the careful scripting, all three of the leading characters played by Toni Collette, Cameron Diaz, and Shirley MacLaine were strong roles with no single character dominating the script. The two sisters, Rose and Maggie, shared the focus in the first half of the film, and MacLaine's grandmother Ella provided a strong impetus in the latter portion.
While all three performances were superb, the trickiest role was Maggie the tomcat. Cameron Diaz brought depth to the role, and one scene especially stood out when Maggie's learning disability was revealed. As she struggled with her reading of the poem in the hospital room, a new dimension of the character suddenly emerged. The scene was sensitively played by Diaz, and the dialogue was, once again, dynamic, sustaining dramatic interest at a point when the impetus of the film could have been lost.
It was impressive as well that the screenplay offered some delectable dialogue for the small parts, especially in the members of the retirement community of Florida. There were many delightful and humorous moments. Yet, the screenplay provided depth and detail in a rich emotional tapestry.
One character that deserves special acknowledgment was the Professor, blind and dying in the Florida hospital. The role was played with great understatement by Norman Lloyd, a veteran character actor who performed with Orson Welles' celebrated Mercury Theatre. Prior to his stunning success in "Citizen Kane" and even before his notorious "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast, Welles was a luminary in the New York theatre. One of the great Shakespearean productions in America in the last century was Welles' 1937 production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" that was part of the Federal Theatre Project. Norman Lloyd played the small but crucial role of Cinna the Poet, and, although Lloyd battled with Welles during the rehearsals, the death scene of Cinna the Poet underscored the theme of fascism that Welles wished to evoke. "In Her Shoes" provides Lloyd with another small, but memorable role. Lloyd's was a riveting performance, and the film would not have been the same without it.
Part of the genius of Shakespeare was his ability to individualize and make memorable even the tiniest roles in his plays. This was the strength as well of "In Her Shoes" and an example of some of the finest screen writing in recent years.
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