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Movie Review: In the Land of Women

In the Land of Women
Written and directed by Jonathan Kasdan
Warner Bros.

This weekend, thrillers Vacancy and Fracture try to surprise you with plot twists or deadly secrets, but it’s the marketing people at Warner Bros. who have pulled a fast one on any ticket buyer for this film, advertised as a (somewhat creepy) young love story, targeted at teenagers.  Boy, are teenagers going to be pissed.  I guess I can’t really blame them since this movie is nearly impossible to market truthfully.

Softcore porn screenwriter Carter Webb (Adam Brody) gets dumped by his famous actress girlfriend, Sofia Bunuel (Elena Anaya), so he escapes L.A. to go to the suburbs of Michigan, where his grandmother Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis) lives.  He hopes to be able to get out that important screenplay and forget about love.  Next door is the family Hardwicke, with mom Sarah (Meg Ryan, still cute at 45), cheating husband Nelson (Clark Gregg), teen daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), and precocious Paige (Mackenzie Vega).

Sarah has breast cancer, and is trying to keep the family together, although it’s hard with a bastard husband and a daughter who is mad at her.  Sarah finds friendship with Carter as they take a walk around the neighborhood, talking about their problems and so forth.  Eventually, mom tells Lucy to show him around town, and Carter becomes privy to Lucy’s world.  Lucy has a kind-of-sort-of quarterback boyfriend, but it’s his best friend who really has strong feelings for her.

But the love story is really Carter and Sarah, not Carter and Lucy.  But the film not really about a love affair struck between any two people.  Yes, Lucy “goes for it” as she does in the trailer by kissing Carter, but this isn’t the beginning of some torrid romance: Carter realizes what a ridiculous match they would be and gives Lucy some advice.  The whole movie is Carter’s interaction with these various people, and how he somehow ends up being therapy to Sarah and Lucy, and eventually, himself.

It’s a very strange film, and I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt, except it doesn’t seem to have much of a driving force, a raison d’etre.  It’s not like the conversations are all that interesting, and the whole breast cancer saga is very Lifetime.  For awhile there, it seemed like it was going to be a breezy romance and I could have just gotten into the vibe.  As is, it left me cold.

Even if you get around the initial shock of the movie not being what you have been told it will be, it’s not really worth the trouble.


Comment from Jonathan Watkins
Time: April 20, 2007, 1:52 pm

This is similar to the marketing they did last year on Zach Braff’s “The Last Kiss.” That was a movie that ended up being pretty damn good and daring dealing with the consequences of adultry, and taking it more from the cheating guy’s perspective. However, it was marketed like a run of the mill romantic comedy; what a shock that must have been for a lot of romcom lovers out there. And the same will probably happen here.

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