The Women (I) (2008)
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It seems as if there is no focus or direction, or as if the direction that has been taken is to obliterate anything that was good about the original film. This is called an updating, as in let's drain the story out of humor, snappy dialogue, and any interesting premise. Most of all, let's prove that women have come a long way, except that the problem is that we don't really get (at least by watching this film) where the women are truly going.
For starters, casting Meg Ryan in the central role proves almost fatal to the movie because somehow she seems to have locked herself into some sort of limbo where women don't really change appearances, even after 20 years of working in the movies. Her Mary which proved to be a difficult role in the 30's, somehow grew from her interaction with the other stereotypes, like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" by learning, observing, and realizing that she had a choice in the matter. It might not have been a choice that women would celebrate nowadays, but it was fun ride, and part of the fun, was the catty, silly, sometimes slapstick routines that elevated that movie into the realm of the sublime. In here, we are down to earth with a thud. By changing the nature of Sylvia, the film has lost a lot of its spark, and it isn't in anyway Annette Bening's fault. I couldn't help but admiring how she tried to save this sinking ship and got a sinking feeling as she struggled with the horrible lines she was handled. Thankfully I entertained myself by looking at some of her terrific outfits and kept reminding myself how talented this lady really was. Her Sylvia is wise but flawed, and she could have been a great creation. Unfortunately Ms. English wasn't paying attention to her own work and loses control of the one character that could have turned the film into a fresh direction.
Yet that wasn't the biggest blasphemy of them all. In the original, we have Joan Crawford doing probably one of the best performances by a woman. Her Crystal is legendary, with conniving lines, incendiary moves, duplicitous maneuvers, and some very sexy poses. She was the link between the male and the female, and through her we knew what the whole catastrophe was about. She provided the tension between men and women. She was dangerous, sexy, the ultimate femme fatale. A woman of intelligence that we feared and admired, and most importantly, we wanted to destroy to save our heroine. Eva Mendes, as gorgeous as she is, is two dimensional in this outing because of weak writing, and once again, some bad casting.
There are more atrocities in the film, such as the addition of a terrible role for Mensing as the dedicated mother who lives for having babies, and the rather annoying lesbian turn by Pinkett. Then comes the biggest waste of talent in the movie, as Bette Middler, who is a little unrecognizable in her make up, shows the spark of what could have been. Her acidic delivery reminds us of the contemporary angle the film could have taken. Her words revive and put a big of much needed naughtiness in the film, and it is exciting to see that it could really fly, then she is gone. She is in the film all of six minutes, and she fades away in the middle of the muddle.
Here is a movie that raised our anticipation level and truly disappointed us, a film that could have joined the successful "Sex in the City" who made an amazing transition to the big screen because it respected its source material and didn't compromise. It gave us more, bigger and better adaptation. It truly updated what had made it successful before. "The Women" in its present reincarnation needs to go back and rework itself, much like "The Hulk" did it this year, find more suitable performers, a really good writer, and most of all, someone who truly treasures what good movies are about.
Jada Pinkett Smith and Debra Messing play worthless roles that have no bearing on the plot and add no entertainment value. Jada Pinkett Smith's character is used as nothing more than a ploy to appear modern, having an African American lesbian character, but in actuality she is there to just look cool. There is no actual reason why Messing in this film other than to fill out the amount of women in the original I take.
The side characters played by Eva Mendes and Debi Mazar are stereotypical female characters, with Mendes portraying the vixen looking to steal the wealthy but bored and mildly neglected husband and Mazar covering the gossip roles.
The movie is boring, lacking charm, humor, or sympathy for any characters. It almost felt like the movie was a punishment for everyone involved, whether in front of or behind the camera.
There is one glimmering hope in the film, however little it is allowed to shine surrounded by the dim and dying stars around it is Cloris Leachman. Leachman is still an amazing talent that brings her remarkable charm and humor to the film, in the small role that she has.
After I saw the new movie, I checked out from my local library the original The Women and I truly enjoyed it. The story was told much better 70 years ago, and kept my interest all the way. The old movie had a real star power.
Let me start by staying that I don't think the 1939 movie is a masterpiece. It has some wonderful scenes, brilliantly directed by George Cukor and brilliantly brought off by a remarkable cast who knew how to deliver bitingly clever dialogue. But there are also maudlin scenes that kill the pacing. An uneven work.
The remake isn't uneven, I'll grant it that. It's uniformly awful all the way through.
To begin with, the characters have no internal coherence, which they most certainly do in the 1939 version. In the remake, it seems that the director did a survey of what would appeal to modern women and then randomly distributed those qualities to the various women in the movie. The modern Chrystal Allen isn't really nasty; unlike in the original, she never betrays Steven Haines. Sylvia Fowler starts off being repulsively self-centered, but then varies back and forth between caring and superficial without ever really being nasty. In fact, NO ONE is really nasty, and that deprives the remake of a lot of the bite of the original.
The modern script is also sadly lacking in humor, unlike the 1939 version. It just isn't that funny. And when it does repeat lines from the original, it is painful to hear how poorly they are delivered.
In short, this movie has nothing to recommend itself. It plays like a mediocre TV show - it was directed by a TV director, so I guess that shouldn't come as a surprise. The 1939 version, though not a masterpiece, remains miles ahead of this sad excuse for a feature film.
I found the message of the movie to be,: if you only worry about yourself, all will be right with the world, everything will fall into place, your lovers will love you more, your friends will respect and like you more, your employers will want you more, pay you more and even your own children and parents will love you more.
I find this message to be reprehensible and totally false.
Kudos for the very funny birthing scene at the end; there isn't a mother out there who won't laugh during that scene.
Overall a very disappointing movie plot. I didn't find myself rooting for anyone in this movie. I thought they were all pathetic self absorbed individuals that I just didn't care what happened to them and that's not a movie people want to see.
Meanwhile, a lot of great acting talent was wasted on a poor screenplay and uninspired direction. The main characters are one-dimensional and boring. (It is hard to feel sympathy for any of them). It is also hard to see the four characters as close friends. It seems like just a bunch of women thrown together, pretending to be close.
I won't list all of the problems with this movie, as it doesn't merit that much of anyone's attention. (Nor is it worth the time it takes to watch it).
The film concerns Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) a perfect wife and mother, the envy of all others in her high society Manhatten social circle. She is painted as a women bearing the weight of the world on her shoulders, despite the fact she needs a live in nanny and housekeeper to cope with her one child. But I don't want to be too hard on her, Mary does all this whilst taking a liassez-faire attitude towards the fashion designing job her father has given her. This idyllic lifestyle cannot last forever though and things start to crash in a very real way.
Mary's husband is cheating on her and her father fires her for not working hard enough. She is quite naturally upset and breaks down a little.
Mary needs to bounce back though, for the sake of her impressionable young daughter and for herself. She does this through rehab, hair straightening and designing her own line of clothes; though amazingly for this kind of film, not a montage. Mary succeeds; her daughter loves her, her mother loves her, her friends love her and her husband decides he loves her now. She decides to take her cheating husband back after realising it was her fault he cheated, as she didn't dote on him enough.
The films one saving grace is that it doesn't go down the "all men are evil" route.
That is something that I have not done since - I have never fallen asleep at the movies.
I LOVE the original and have seen it several times and recommend it to everyone. This may have been the problem but I do not think so, because there were a couple of bright spots that showed if done right they could have made this movie work.
Bette was under used and Anne was over used and miscast.
I do not know why English or anyone for that matter let this go out in that condition.
They billed this as a Sex in the City but better? Not a chance I liked Sex in the City a lot and was disappointed by this movie.
So do not waste your money on this movie - go see anything but this!
I am surprised that none of the reviews I have read mention what I found most unlikeable about this film, and what kept it from reaching even a portion of its potential: it looked and felt like it was made for television. To give some credit to Ms. English, many of the jokes that simply did NOT work on a movie screen would have been terrific on TV (and maybe a laugh track would have helped). So much of the camera usage and the lighting would have played out fine on TV but looked awkward or odd on a big screen. If the whole film had been chopped up into a mini-series or a sit-com, I think it could have worked. But this is cinema and sadly Ms. English's talents didn't translate. I cringed at so many different points in my embarrassment for the actors & the writers that I felt like I came out of the theater half shriveled! Meg Ryan is her usual perky, cute self (except for the awful plastic surgery she has had on her face), but where did she have a chance to use her talent?! She has made films where she doesn't recreate her stereo-typed role and done them well... but not here. Annette Bening seemed to simply go through the motions - such a great talent and yet such a poor performance! I enjoyed the other women characters but they were more caricature than substance, and it was sad to see. What worked in this film in the 1930s doesn't translate to the 2000s, and no one helped Ms. English get the changes & updates or subtleties right. If only she (as writer, director AND producer) had reached out for some assistance, I think it could have been good. But it was not.
It's so frustrating to go to a movie that has good stars and a good writer or director and come away feeling it was a waste of everyone's time & money! This New Yorker cartoon I saw yesterday is appropriate: A few movie execs are having a meeting & the caption reads: "Let's remake a classic with worse everything!"
And then there's the cast. I don't envy any group of actresses setting themselves up for comparison with the sensational ensemble of the original. This cast sounds impressive on paper, but they never really gel. It took the "SATC" women several seasons of hard work to develop as individual characters that come together so smoothly. Ryan, Bening, Messing, and Pinkett Smith can't manage the same feat in two hours, especially not when saddled playing cardboard stereotypes representing different aspects of whatever the filmmakers think "the modern woman" is. Not one of these characters, for all the talents of the actresses playing them, ever actually felt like a real person.
That said, there's some life here, scattered scenes that are amusing or touching. The four leads are ably assisted, especially by Cloris Leachman and Candice Bergen, in beautifully played roles that ring true. And Bette Midler steals the too-brief chunk of the movie she gets, giving us a hint of how brass and sassy a genuine attempt at updating "The Women" might have been. Unfortunately, Eva Mendes then comes back on screen, reminding us of how beneath Joan Crawford's Crystal Allen her version is, and how much this movie pales in comparison. (Not that it's all Mendes's fault -- true, she's no Joan Crawford, but her role here is a shadow of what Crawford got to sink her teeth into.) If you like chick flicks (I'm a guy, but I tend to) and you're not hoping for anything close to the original, then give it a go. Just don't expect too much. Everyone else, don't waste your time.
As this is a remake (which I have not seen) maybe it's so bad because the dialogue is outdated? Or is the target audience 19-year old girls that might grab this excuse of a film at 2 for 1 Sex and the City-night?
What happened to Candace Bergen? - As Meg Ryans mother she provided an intelligent balance in rhetorics and dialog but at the end of the movie she has transformed to a babbling, botoxed and victimized housewife. And the Jada Pinkett Smith character as the gay friend who in her womanizer, spread-leg, shot-drinking self is so over the top trying to portray a lesbian that it makes me think that the director never met a gay woman in her life! Why else would she portray this WONDERFUL actress as a foul mouthed macho man?
I can't even comment on the Eva Mendez character. Ms Mendez is a fantastic actress who in her prior roles has done nothing but added "Girl Power" to the row of the typical Hollywood vamp. She is a sexy, beautiful, strong Latina who in this movie comes off as nothing but a victim. I think the idea was to portray her as the conniving snake who steal other womens husbands - and that's fine. But she comes off as nothing but stupid with the attention span of a tween.
If this movie's target audience are adult women, it makes me nothing less than ANGRY. Did the director think that we, the women, are that uninvolved? Incredibly heavy subjects were brought up but all the director did was throw fluff at it. The subject matter of friendship betrayal for example - the entire movie could have been dedicated to it! You have 4 very different women with extreme circumstances. Each one of them could have developed a different solution or cope with the problem and actually have HELPED someone.
Do NOT watch this movie. It is a complete waste of time.
Please excuse any errors. English is not my first language.
i don't know what possessed me. a friend invited me so i thought i'd go with an open mind. i am not exaggerating - it was the most painful experience of my life.
these are just a tiny fraction of my reasons for my opinion:
1 - there was nothing likable about any of the characters. they were all 1 dimensional, boring, stereotypical, very unattractive etc etc
2 - the script was the most clunky, forced, unbelievable piece of writing i have ever bore witness to. and i have seen a lot of 'poundshop classic'.
3 - there was not a single man in it. not even a walk on / extra part. i know that was obviously a really radical girl-power idea by the director but its a stupid idea. and its not even radical.
4 - on the subject of extras, if you do happen to watch this shocker, observe the extras. they are the funniest part of the film.
5 - i can't believe that this film was directed by a women. I'm sure she doesn't know any women or has never interacted with one.
6 - meg Ryan's hair, meg Ryan's face. in no particular order.
7 - Bette Midler played Bette Midler.
8 - the terrible, unbearable scene when Midler offered a joint to Ryan. why oh why.
9 - potentially good films don't get the backing to get made because money goes into awful drivel like this.
10 - the bags under Eva Mendes' eyes.
i have not seen the original so i am not some anti-remake type. my favourite film is a remake. i just hated this film so much it makes me want to say a swear. its not even one of those films that you have to check out just to see how bad it really is. please take my word for it and leave it at that. don't even watch it when its on TV. pretend it doesn't exist because i certainly will.