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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
With a title like "In the Land of Women," one might expect a grueling exercise in overdone immature comedy. Instead, Jonathan Kasdan delivers a heartfelt, poignant drama dissecting the values of life, love, and friendship, and the experiences that change the views held by its brilliant cast of interconnected characters.
After a disheartening breakup with his girlfriend, Carter (Adam Brody) attempts to distance himself from his troubles by traveling to suburban Michigan to visit his dying grandmother, Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis). Shortly after his arrival Carter meets Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan), the neighborly mother who lives across the street, and he quickly becomes intrigued by her charming nature and unique outlook on life. When he meets Sarah's two daughters, Lucy (Kristen Stewart) and Paige (Makenzie Vega), and becomes a sort of confidant to all three girls, his own views on life and love begin to change as his relationship with each helps to mend the emotional tears in their family.
The characters are the true foundation of In the Land of Women, and finer performances are rarely seen. Carter is an instantly likable persona thanks to Adam Brody and his polished portrayal of a character with realistic flaws and believable aspirations. He is a writer who dreams of utilizing his talent for a more worthwhile venture and finds love in the unlikeliest of situations. Meg Ryan embodies a far more complex character than we're used to seeing, and evokes everything from affection to pathos from her audience. Both Kristen Stewart and Makenzie Vega are talented beyond their years and offer astonishingly intense and mature performances. The likeably morose Phyllis provides much of the comedy relief and also forces Carter to rethink his notions of death and view life in a new light. The compellingly poignant interactions between each character infuse a level of believability into their unusual predicaments to create a connection with the audience almost as strong as the ones they have with each other.
Perhaps Land's only flaw is also one of its finest points of originality and creativity. The intelligent dialogue that permeates the script both draws its audience into its world of intriguing characters while simultaneously keeping the viewer slightly distanced from the realism displayed. Do people truly have such emotionally charged and heart-wrenchingly challenging conversations? Perhaps not, but one can always hope, and the complex characters created here masterfully reveal an idyllic example of such individuals. While the situations portrayed may seem overly complicated, every character involved handles themselves exactly as one would want to see and every increasingly difficult predicament and strained relationship is made believable through exceptional acting and inspired dialogue. No real stumbles or faltering exists in their interactions, but a very real hesitation and a touch of uncertainty in certain conversations adds to the overall attractiveness of each character as they cope with their trying relationships. Only once was an intensely interesting moment cut short (an emotional sequence in a diner when Paige demands the truth from her mother, and consequently the respect involved with comprehending its weight), forcing me to ponder why one such memorable scene wasn't concluded more satisfactorily when all others were.
Subtle humor permeates much of the film, persuading the tone to remain light. Idyllic conclusions find their way into somber and delicate situations resulting in a moving, feel-good movie where tears of joy will likely replace those of sorrow. Though over-sentimentality may intrude upon satisfying drama from time to time, excellent pacing, endearing characters superbly acted, and thought-provoking, poignant dialogue make this Land one worth visiting.
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