In the Land of Women
In the Land of Women
can't seem to decide whether it wants to be a smart movie with some cliché
problems or a clichéd movie with some smart moments. It ends up being
a bit of both, with the smart beating out the clichéd -- but just by a hair.
The film was written and
directed by Jonathan Kasdan, who has some big steps to follow in as the son
of Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote some of the biggest movies ever (The Empire
Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Revenge of the Jedi, The Bodyguard)
and also had an impressive career as a director (Body Heat, The Big
Chill, The Accidental Tourist, Grand Canyon). Not only that, his brother
Jake has made a couple of respected-if-slightly-overlooked movies (Zero
Effect and Orange County) and was one of the minds behind the
cult-favorite TV series Freaks and Geeks.
Growing up in a household
like that, you would expect for Jonathan Kasdan to come up with a little
more interesting plot that the old "struggling artist gets burned by the big
city and goes back to his small town home to find himself" plotline.
More, specifically he
writes of a mid-twenties struggling screenwriter named Carter Webb (Adam
Brody) who is dumped by his gorgeous French model actress on the same day
that his mother (JoBeth Williams in a too-tiny cameo) learns his grandmother
in Michigan (Olympia Dukakis) thinks she is dying. Therefore he
decides to fly out to Michigan to take care of grandma and try to work on
his long-stalled screenplay. Of course right across the street from
grandma are beautiful, neurotic mom-daughter combo (played by Meg Ryan and
Garden State or Lonesome Jim or Elizabethtown or
dozens of other movies you've seen over the years, well that's the breaks.If it sounds a little like,
However, that is the plot
that Kasdan has carved out for himself. On the plus side, he does a
pretty good job with the somewhat overdone structure. He has an ear
for dialogue which rivals that of his father. He can take somewhat
predictable characters and make us care for them, which is a talent in
His best move was hiring
the three lead actors for the film. They make the movie feel real even
when it doesn't seem to deserve it.
Adam Brody makes the jump
from TV (The OC) to movies with a surprising ease. He does have
leading man written all over him, sort of like a cuter Shia LaBoeuf.
The weight of the story is mostly dropped into his lap and he is able to
make his character funny and sweet even when he is completely egocentric and
indulging in self-pity.
Kristen Stewart -- who has
grown quite a bit in the few years since playing Jodie Foster's asthmatic
daughter in Panic Room -- has a wonderfully natural presence as the
young teen just growing into her own beauty and trying to understand why she
resents her mother so much.
The mom role, though a
semi-supporting part, is the best part Meg Ryan has gotten in several years.
She downplays (but doesn't totally abandon) the traditional Ryan cutesy
touches and also doesn't overdo some of the more melodramatic moments the
script tosses at her.
That said, some very
talented actors are totally misused -- particularly Olympia Dukakis
(Moonstruck) whose eccentric and slightly addled grandma is just a sad
waste of a great actress.
However, even if it is not
quite as good as it could be, In the Land of Women is a pretty decent
debut film. I'd like to see what Jonathan Kasdan comes up with next. (4/07)
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Posted: April 21, 2007.