Dir: Curtis Hanson. US.2005. 130mins.
Curtis Hanson'sgenre-spanning career has included The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, TheRiver Wild, LA Confidential and 8 Mile - so it should come asno surprise that he is able to craft a superior tearjerker in his latest film InHer Shoes.
The contemporary equivalentof what used to be called a "women's picture" in the 1940s and 1950s, the movieis driven by female stars, aims for the heart and packs an emotional punchwhich, thanks to Hanson, never feels quite as calculated as the average studioheartstring-tugger.
Released in the wake of atestosterone-fuelled summer in the US on Oct 7, Fox should have no troubledrawing female audiences and their supplies of Kleenex into this redemptivestory of two dysfunctional sisters and their struggle to overcome the legacy oftheir mother's suicide in their childhood.
Word of mouth will play acrucial factor in the build-up of business. Its domestic box office should fallbetween Stepmom ($93m) at the high end, and Under The Tuscan Sun($44m) and Where The Heart Is ($34m) at the lower end. Internationalfemale audiences will respond with the same zeal, once word is out that thefilm delivers on an emotional level.
The big star name here isCameron Diaz. Indeed, look at Fox's early poster campaign and you'd think thiswas a Cameron Diaz movie. But while she is indeed fine in her role as the vampysister, the movie belongs to the remarkable Toni Collette as the lessattractive sister and Shirley MacLaine, who turns in one of her most restrainedperformances in years as their long-lost grandmother.
Even though the stamp ofHanson and the work of the cast elevates In Her Shoes, it is unlikely to figuresignificantly in the end-of-year awards jamboree. It doesn't have the sweep of TermsOf Endearment or the edge of In The Bedroom and may be forgotten next tothe true story drama of North Country or Walk The Line.
Based on the 2002 novel byJennifer Weiner, the movie illustrates the differences between the two sistersover the opening credits: Maggie Feller (Diaz) throws up while having sex witha guy in the toilets at her high school reunion; Rose Feller (Collette) isworking late at her law firm and has to come and pick Maggie up when she passesout.
Maggie can't hold a jobdown, is barely literate or numerate and has no home of her own, but isgorgeous and an expert at picking up men. Rose works as an attorney at one ofthe top law firms in Philadelphia, owns a smart apartment and a vast shoecollection but has no dating life and struggles with her weight andself-esteem.
The two are deeply connectedhowever. Although they fight, they depend on each other, united in their lovefor their father (Burgi) and contempt for their condescending stepmother(Azzarra).
But when Maggie sleeps withRose's potential boyfriend, a partner at her firm, Rose throws her out of herapartment and Maggie goes AWOL. While Rose leaves her firm and takes updogwalking in order to get her head clear, Maggie stumbles across evidence thatthe maternal grandmother (MacLaine) whom they thought was dead is actuallyalive and living in Florida. She heads to the senior village where she lives.
The two sisters learn tooperate without each other, but when Maggie finds herself falling in love withanother lawyer (Feuerstein) and planning to get married in Philadelphia, itbecomes imperative that the two make peace before the wedding.
Hanson walks a fine linebetween sentimentality and the genuine emotions of the situation, and there aremoments - the inclusion of an ee cummings poem towards the end, for example -when the film slides into mawkishness.
Fortunately the actresses,particularly Collette, give such rich, full-bodied characterisations that, forthe most part, it is more inherently touching than shamelessly manipulative.
Scott Free Productions
Deuce Three Productions
Fox 2000 Pictures
20th Century Fox
From the novel by Jennifer Weiner
Lisa Zeno Churgin