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L.A. soft-porn writer Carter Webb is frustrated enough after his actress girlfriend dumps him to need a serious break. He decides to spend it with his grandmother, who can't really take care of herself and her Detroit suburb house anyway. Helpful Carter soon overcomes mishaps to bond with her foxy neighbor across the street and her brat daughter. Helping them actually helps him regain perspective and self-confidence. Written by
Carter (Adam Brody) says to teenager Lucy (Kristen Stewart), "It's a big world out there. It's messy and you can't let fear turn you into an ass----." Carter reminds Lucy that she should cut her Mom a break, because she may be dying. Even at a young age, she needs to appreciate that the world does not revolve around her, and knock it off. This is the context of Writer and Director Jonathan Kasdan's (son of Lawrence Kasdan) "In the Land of Women". This is Kasdan's feature film debut as director. The material is not entirely original, we have seen similar before. However, Kasdan's storytelling is deeply personal, strikingly poignant, and bittersweet. Much like his Dad, he demonstrates an ease in composing relationships. He has also assembled a wonderful cast. Adam Brody (of "The O.C.") is amazing in the lead. Kristen Stewart ("Speak") is maturing as a powerful young star. Meg Ryan, who plays Lucy's suffering mother Sarah Hardwicke, is awesome giving one of her best performances in years. I think what "In the Land of Women" does so eloquently, is illustrate the pain of those things missing in life, and our blind spots created by our self-absorption. The indelible image of Meg Ryan's Sarah standing alone in the down pouring rain, crying in isolation is stark, moving, and so very human. More than anything, I think Kasdan touchingly pleads for compassion in our relationships that is decent and forgiving.
Carter Webb (Brody) is a soft core erotica writer, who is dating beautiful movie star Sofia (gorgeous Elena Anaya). As the movie opens, Sofia breaks up with Carter. Devastated Carter sees his mom Agnes (funny and good JoBeth Williams). Carter volunteers to take care of his ailing grandmother Phyllis (the great Olympia Dukakis) in Michigan, giving him an excuse to get out of Los Angeles for a while. Carter befriends Sarah Hardwicke (Ryan) and her daughter Lucy (Stewart), who lives across the street from his grandmother. Sarah is dealing with possible personal tragedyshe has discovered a lump in her breast. Lucy harbors an unusual disdain for her Mom, even for a teenager. Sarah tells Carter that she tries to stay out of her way, as not to "embarrass her". Sarah's husband Nelson (Clark Gregg) is having an affair with another woman, and both Sarah and Lucy are aware. Lucy proclaims that she does not ever want to be like her Mom. The under current in Lucy's judgment is that Mom is weak. Sad and strong Sarah eloquently says to Carter, "I don't want to look back on my life and wonder what part belonged to me " Carter forms a relationship with both Sarah and Lucythe twist being at Sarah's encouragement. Kasdan brilliantly orchestrates this relation tie, never awkward, becoming only something that evolves. After all, "In the Land of Women" is about women, and life.
Adam Brody is amazing as Carter. His low key presence, and insightful smarts work "In the Land of Women". His Carter's growth from arrogant heartbroken soul to being a "great listener", who cares about others, is moving. And Brody does this with a light and humorous touch. Kristen Stewart is a star. Stewart resonates in Lucy a bold spirit and smart edge. She beautifully captures Lucy's angst and vulnerability as a teenager defining her self. Makenzie Vega makes an impressive turn as Lucy's younger sister Paige, the precocious yoga practicing preteen. Vega has a touching scene with Mom Sarah in the ice cream shop. Olympia Dukakis is brilliantly subtle as Grandmother Phyllis. For the most part she is comic relief. However, her character provides a wake up call to Carter: "One day I am going to be dead, and you will still be alive " Meg Ryan is awesome as Sarah. I have always been a fan. She is older now, still beautiful and displaying great power as an actor. Ryan movingly imposes a quiet strength of character in Sarah, who endures a loveless marriage, daughter who hates her, and life and death. Sarah by nature has to always keep it together, so when she asks Carter for help it is out of tremendous courage. As she stands inconsolable in the rain, her suffering is heartbreaking. Meg Ryan's humanity gives "In the Land of Women" grace and poignancy.
John Kasdan's "In the Land of Women" is bittersweet and moving. Adam Brody, Meg Ryan, and Kristen Stewart are great in Kasdan's tale of compassion and forgiveness. Kasdan accomplishes this all with resounding heart and humor.
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