Women vs. Men (2002 TV Movie)
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The shame is that such fine actors are used for this unfunny trash - which feels as if it were produced by Jerry Springer - I am a fan of Christine Lahti (who looks fantastic), Glenn Headley, Paul Reiser, Jenifer Coolidge (who sadly doesn't), and Joe Mantegna - it's really sad when excellent actors have to play so dumb and low.
If this were even as funny as an episode of Married With Children, I wouldn't mind as much - but it's not as inventive.
Skip it. It's really bad.
But, if you like movies about real people, this one's a winner. (Don't be confused by it's designation as a "comedy" -- you'll laugh, but it's not "funny, ha-ha." It's a humorous drama, a la "Diner" or "to Gillian on her 39th Birthday" -- if you didn't like those movies, you won't like this one.)
The acting, writing, and direction work together to put you in the middle of a really bad day in the marriage of Michael (Mantegna) & Dana (Lahti). They've hit that point in a relationship where everything's great, but nothing's right anymore. They're about ready to break up because they can't figure out how to talk about their problems with each other... perhaps because neither is sure what those problems are.
Unlike most movies where people are having trouble talking to each other, these folks really try. Dana talks to Brita (Headly) and Mike talks to Bruce (Resier). Even without the flashbacks, you can really feel that these people have been living in each other's lives for decades. Dana & Mike want to break their vicious cycle, but keep falling into their old patterns. They get angry, say (or do) the wrong thing (realizing how wrong it is) and back themselves into a corner.
Throughout, they try to keep a sense of humor about it all. Mike & Bruce make each other laugh, as do Dana & Brita...and we're laughing with them.
They're all smart and thoughtful and yet have trouble keeping their eye on the prize, maybe because they've forgotten that it takes work to make a relationship work, even (especially?) after 20 years.
For a movie that takes place in just a single day and in so few sets, it's surprisingly open and light. Palminteri's direction is fantastic. He makes a scene where the boys head to a strip club seem intimate and quiet while a scene where a single male strips for the two girls seem raucous and rowdy.
Palminteri gets the best performance I've seen out of Mantegna and the most intimate out of Reiser, so perhaps Palminteri remembers something about acting (even if he can't, in my opinion, act his way out of a paper bag). The women are equally amazing (Lahti and Headly showing they're more than just solid TV-series actors).
Despite the trauma that these folks go through, you'll enjoy spending 90 minutes watching them watch their lives fall apart. And watching them pick up the pieces because they're still crazy (in love) after all these years.
I rated this 9/10.
The movie played out like a stage production; it was dialogue driven and mostly played in a couple interior sets between the four main characters and two major supporting cast members. If you are adverse to dialogue driven movies or need a movie where one side is clearly superior to the other, this is not the film for you. The writer has an even hand and incisive dialogue evenly distributed to both the male and female side of the subject of this film- marriage. Through a series of well crafted discussions, film dissects the subject, studies it, picks at all of it's corners and (gasp) actually encourages self-examination. I challenge any married person not to see at least one fault from these characters in him- or herself. Do some of the situations and conversations come out as over-the-top? Sure. Are the characters, at times, TOO eloquent? I suppose that could be argued (one could also argue that they are not, however, given the fact that they all are highly educated and it's not hidden in the exposition). Is the movie banter-driven at times? Yep. It is often reliant on banter. None of this makes it any less fun and thought-provoking to someone who might enjoy laughing at the navel examination that relationships can become. There is a lot of- as someone put it- "psycho-babble", but it makes SENSE given the fact that one of the main characters IS A RELATIONSHIP THERAPIST and another character is her husband of over twenty years and the film's premise is a moment that may end all of the relationships involved. If there was no "psycho-babble", it would be unrealistic. Any marred person who has ever worked in any form of therapy or management has resorted to methods you use at work in heavy arguments at home. It just happens. These methods become part of you, tools you can count on. It would be ludicrous to expect otherwise and is equally ludicrous to criticize the movie on that basis. My wife and I truly enjoyed this movie, despite moments that came out as way over the top (there are some scoffable moments involving Nick for example). It was warm and funny and- for once- written for literate adults who enjoy theatre as much as they enjoy film. Ignore the criticism if you need these qualities once in a while. You'll be glad you did.