September 12, 2008
On the Big Board
|Really lousy dialogue and comedic timing was barely saved by a positive
Gossip, fashion, loyalty and friendship—all these themes find a place in Picturehouse’s The Women, a satirical and astringent comedy about a spoiled group of New York City socialites (all women of course) whose lives are suddenly thrown into dramatic upheaval. The story follows Mary and her three friends, who are all distraught when they discover Mary’s husband is having an affair. The event causes them to step outside their seemingly happy lifestyles and re-examine their own relationships.
The film is based on Clare Boothe Luce’s 1936 play of the same name, which was already made into a film by George Cukor in 1939 (also called The Women) and a musical called The Opposite Sex (1956). Cukor’s film is highly revered and already considered a staple of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In 2007, the Library of Congress decided to preserve it in the U.S. National Film Registry.
Most audiences going into the 2008 version probably won’t know much about the original play or film, if at all, but The Women is the kind of material that can be updated every 30 years. It is, as many describe it, a “comedy of manners,” which sets out to deride and deconstruct a particular social class, and because the inner dynamics of social classes are constantly changing, so can the films made about them.
This updated film stars Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith, each representing a different rung on the same social ladder. Ryan plays the main character, Mary, while Bening, Messing and Pinkett Smith are her three gossipy friends. When they learn Mary’s husband is cheating on her with the perfume girl at Saks Fifth Avenue (Eva Mendes), it sends them off - not the affair but the fact Mary didn’t tell them! To them, that’s unheard of.
The film was directed by Diane English, best known for creating TV’s Murphy Brown. English obviously has a passion for telling stories about modern women at the forefront of conflict. With The Women, it will be interesting to see if she follows Cukor’s strategy and eliminates any on-screen men. Fortunately, the trailer and ads suggest this is not merely a pointless remake or light comedic fluff, but something insightful with an actual agenda.
While The Women has a shot at becoming a critical success, its box office chances aren’t as rosy. Considering Picturehouse is releasing it on September 12th makes you think the studio doesn’t have much faith in it. It’s also going up against the DeNiro/Pacino crime drama, Righteous Kill, and although the latter has a completely opposite audience in mind, it’ll be the men who win the weekend.
Still, movies aimed at women are often underestimated as far as box office potential, and The Women may still triumph in the end, thanks mostly to its low $18 million production budget. The cast isn’t the type to attract large crowds, but they’re well-known enough to make people curious. Even if the movie only grosses $20 million by the end of its run, it should find plenty of life on DVD, much the same way Mad Money did this past spring. Not all female-skewed films can have Sex and the City-type runs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be successful. (Matthew Huntley/BOP)
Vital statistics for The Women
Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes
Jada Pinkett Smith, Debra Messing, Candice Bergen, Bette Midler, Cloris Leachman, Carrie Fisher, Lynn Whitfield, Joanna Gleason, Ana Gasteyer, Debi Mazar
|Click Here for Trailer
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