In Her Shoes
Directed by Curtis Hanson. Starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, Candice Azzara, Ken Howard, Norman Lloyd, Brooke Smith, Francine Beers, Richard Burgi. (2005, PG-13, 130 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 7, 2005
Fans of director Hanson’s recent films – 8 Mile, Wonder Boys, and L.A. Confidential – will likely wonder what the director of such guy-oriented movies is doing suddenly helming this quintessential women’s picture – or chick flick, to use the vernacular. They’re forgetting what a fantastic director of actors he is, one that coaxes terrific performances from nonactors like Eminem, and better-than-usual performances from pros like Kim Basinger, Michael Douglas, Russell Crowe, and Kevin Spacey. In In Her Shoes, Cameron Diaz delivers the best and most nuanced performance of her career, Shirley MacLaine turns in the most restrained and touching performance of her more recent career, and Toni Collette gets to trade in her kooky character acting for a lovely and attractive star turn. If this were all Hanson managed to accomplish with this sisters-in-emotional-crisis movie then he still will have released the best chick flick of the year so far. However, it is also possible to see within In Her Shoes themes that resonate throughout Hanson’s work: character doubles that fulfill the other half as Bud and Edmund do in L.A. Confidential, and coming-of-age predicaments that are more accurately the coming-out from a prolonged adolescence like Eminem’s Rabbit in 8 Mile or Douglas’ pot-addled writer in Wonder Boys. Hanson takes a prosaic and overly schematic script by Erin Brockovich screenwriter Susannah Grant (who adapted from the novel by Jennifer Weiner) and spins it into box-office gold. Diaz’s Maggie and Collette’s Rose play sisters who are opposites in every way, except that since a young age they have both been motherless girls who are unwelcome in the home of their crummy stepmother and passive dad. Maggie is an irresponsible good-time girl whose job opportunities are limited by her closet dyslexia; Rose is a single lawyer who sops the plainness of her life by buying dozens of designer shoes. When she oversteps the tolerant generosity of her sister, Maggie hightails it to an assisted living community in Florida where Ella (MacLaine), the grandmother she never knew she had, lives. While there, her grandmother helps provide her with a work ethic and career, a dying man (Lloyd) has her read Elizabeth Bishop poems aloud to him and consequently resolves her reading disorder, she learns compassion for those she loves, and gains a truer picture of the legacy of her dead mother. It’s all a bit much for one comic weepie, but In Her Shoes maintains a breezy charm throughout and contains many extremely funny sequences. At times, the continuous crosscutting between the two sisters feels as though the film is clobbering home the idea of the women as each other’s complement, but even if these Shoes are not perfectly stitched the fit is nevertheless comfortable and the look is polished.