Notes on The Women

Yes, The Women, a remake of George Cukor’s classic 1939 version, views like a bizarre variation on the Sex and the City movie (SATC is bizarre enough already). Meg Ryan (Mary Haines) comes off as a blonde-poodle-hair-do-and-puffy-lips reply to Carrie Bradshaw. Both of them lose their men and then spend much of the film mourning the loss until their various women friends help them triumph in the end. Given that The Women does not include one man ever (sisters are doing it for themselves!), Mary’s husband’s determines much of the plot thanks to his infidelity with a Saks Fifth Avenue spritzer girl (Eva Mendez). So even though guys are absent, the women often react to the unseen men anyway, which makes the film seem dated. Further observations:

1) What does The Women suppose that women like in their movies? A lesbian bar scene, Saks Fifth Avenue, confrontations in the dressing room of a lingerie shop, fashion shows, gossip, and the ever-popular birthing scene (“My water broke!”)—the female equivalent to a shoot-out.

2) As Mary’s mother Catherine, Candice Bergen looks put-together, weathering her age better than just about anyone else. Director Diane English wrote episodes for Bergen’s Murphy Brown, but otherwise she has never directed a feature-length film before. Now she decides to compete with George Cukor?

3) Most unfortunate cameo—Carrie Fisher. She has one scene as an evil reporter with Annette Bening in a gym. Both women clumsily operate elliptical machines. Fisher looks creepily like Robert Blake--short, pasty, and ill-at-ease.

4) Funniest scene—Mary Haines expresses her despair over losing her husband by dipping a stick of butter into dry cocoa and sugar and then eating it.

5) Annette Bening acquits herself reasonably well as the un-Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep’s role in The Devil Wears Prada). While Streep rules her film with understated power, Bening plays a much more nervous editor of a ladies magazine living in fear of getting sacked. As one of the less Botoxed actresses, she also has one of the better opening lines: “This is my face. Deal with it.”

6) Signs of growth and change—Mary gets her poodle do straightened!

7) While the 1939 classic original began with head shots of various animals (a cat, a deer, lamb, wolf, etc.) that dissolve into the women’s faces to give the viewer an instant idea of each character, the 2008 version begins with a bunch of ladies’ feet walking around New York, I guess to remind the viewer of Hitchcock’s intro to Strangers on a Train.

8) As LA-degenerate agent Leah Miller, Bette Midler somehow looks dignified in dyed blond hair and a grunge t-shirt. As other women work hard to look youthful and beautiful, Bette goes in the opposite direction and upstages them all. She also has the best advice for the woebegone Mary—“Don’t give a shit about anybody.” Too bad Diane English did not adopt more of that iconoclastic attitude while making The Women.