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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Diane English
Cast:
Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler, Candice Bergen, Carrie Fisher, Cloris Leachman, Debi Mazar, Ana Gasteyer
Writing Credits:
Diane English, Clare Boothe Luce (play), Anita Loos (1939 screenplay), Jane Murfin (1939 screenplay)

Tagline:
It's all about ...

Synopsis:
In New York City's modern whirl of fashion and publishing, Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) seems to have it all until she finds out that her husband is cheating on her with the perfume girl from Saks Fifth Avenue. Now, all hell breaks loose as Mary contemplates the fate of her marriage and her circle of tight-knit friends question their own friendships and relationships.

Box Office:
Budget
$16.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$10.115 million on 2962 screens.
Domestic Gross
$26.896 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English

Runtime: 114 min.
Price: $28.98
Release Date: 12/19/2008

Bonus:
• “The Women: The Legacy” Featurette
• “The Women Behind The Women” Featurette
• Two Additional Scenes
• Previews


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RELATED REVIEWS


The Women (2008)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 22, 2008)

Remakes always present a dicey proposition, and that proves even more accurate when the original flick possesses a truly devoted fan base. I don’t think that 1939’s The Women is a film known terribly well by the masses, but it boasts a tremendously dedicated cult following. Would they embrace its 2008 remake? Apparently not, as the update yanked in a poor $26 million as it did a fast fade from multiplexes.

Perhaps future generations will more fully enjoy the flick, though I doubt it. The Women focuses on Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) and her personal life. Mary’s pal Sylvie (Annette Bening) learns that Mary’s husband Stephen is having an affair with a Saks salesgirl named Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). Sylvie keeps this a secret but finds out when she visits the same manicurist (Debi Mazar) who told Sylvie.

Mary also undergoes negativity at work. She thinks her boss – who’s also her dad – will hand over the reigns for the family business. Instead, he gives Mary the boot. This leads to concerns about Mary’s well being and the support of her friends. In addition to Sylvie, we see the assistance of super-fertile Edie (Debra Messing) and artistic night owl Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith) as well as Mary’s mother (Candice Bergen). The tale follows Mary’s issues, how she – and her gal pals – deal with them, and a few related tangents.

Would this update on The Women exist without the success of Sex and the City? Maybe, but it seems doubtful. The scent of Carrie and pals covers Women, as it presents a stunningly similar affair. Sylvie feels an awful lot like a less slutty Samantha, and with her long curls, Ryan’s Mary even looks like Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Women offers such a superficial affair that it makes Sex and the City look like War and Peace. It takes all of Sex’s negatives and amplifies them. It focuses relentlessly on the insubstantial aspects of female relationships and glorifies looks/clothes while it pretends to condemn them. From what I can tell, Sex may promote the superficial, but it lacks this project’s blatant hypocrisy.

And that two-faced nature will get to the viewer. For instance, after a film packed with “all women are beautiful flowers” nonsense and attempts to scorn restrictive weight standards, we see a fashion show that features the usual skeletons. Wouldn’t it have been a bolder move to provide models who didn’t look so gaunt and unappealing? Apparently no one involved with the flick sees this odd contradictory message, probably because they were too busy reveling in their own back-patting.

Women boasts a pretty stellar cast, but don’t expect them to redeem the material. No real characters appear. Instead, all we find is a collection of caricatures, each one wackier than the last. The film includes too many roles for any of them to present anything more than a few minor quirks and traits. Bening and Ryan get the most substantial parts, but they remain one-dimensional. Still, that tops Messing, Smith and Mendes; their roles occupy half a dimension at best.

The film desperately wants to be clever and wacky, but just seems desperate. All the actors come across as loud and broad. Perhaps this is supposed to be an homage to the quick-talking, showy performances of the late 1930s, but it doesn’t work. The performances feel forced and unnatural.

Much of the time, the story is little more than a collection of quips and one-liners, at least until it officially Gets Serious. Then it turns into a turgid tale of All the Woes of the Female. Hoo boy, does the flick delight in the pain women must suffer – almost always due to the transgressions of men. Granted, The Women never becomes as male-bashing as it could’ve, but it definitely makes sure to frequently remind us how much pain guys cause and how wonderful and supportive women are.

Of course, the movie’s “Women Rule!” message still comes down to a standard story in which women seem to be incomplete without men. For such potentially empowered ladies, they all appear awfully focused on guys. All they do is think about, talk about, and wonder about men. And this is supposed to inspire and empower women?

In an tremendously contrived move, the cast shows not a single male – well, at least not until the very last seconds of the film. In fairness, I believe the 1939 Women also eschewed anyone with XY chromosomes, so I can’t lay the blame totally on those behind the remake.

However, just because the original flick omitted men doesn’t make it any more sensible for the remake. The level to which it goes to avoid showing men becomes absolutely absurd, and it actively harms the storytelling. For instance, rather than show a fight between Mary and Stephen, we find an awkward, poor second person telling of the conflict. The lack of men turns into a real distraction just because it’s such an obvious, smug conceit. Seriously – the characters walk the streets of Manhattan and encounter only ladies. How idiotic and unrealistic is that?

While I recognize I don’t fall into the target audience for The Women, that doesn’t excuse all its problems. I can watch flicks meant for other demographics and still appreciate them if they’re well made. Nothing about The Women succeeds, unfortunately. It turns into a superficial, moronic tale of female empowerment with no real redeeming value.


The DVD Grades: Picture C-/ Audio C/ Bonus D+

The Women appears in both an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen version on this double-sided, single-layered DVD; the widescreen image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Only the letterboxed picture was reviewed for this article. Since each side of the disc packed about two and a half hours of video onto the single layers, I expected the worst from the presentation. While the visuals surpassed my low expectations, the transfer nonetheless suffered from a mix of problems.

The excessive compression created most of the issues. The film took on a gauzy look, as artifacts made it seem like it was shot through a light screen. Sharpness struggled as well. The movie usually demonstrated adequate definition, but more than a few soft shots emerged along the way. The flick gave us passable delineation and that was about it. It lacked jagged edges, but shimmering was a more consistent distraction, as some moiré effects appeared. Source flaws failed to distract, and only a little light edge enhancement materialized.

Colors appeared decent at best. The general murkiness meant that they lacked much vivacity and tended to seem somewhat drab and flat. Blacks followed suit, as dark elements looked muddy, and shadows were too dense. Low-light shots came across as dull and somewhat tough to discern. This was a consistently bland transfer that deserved a “C-”.

Though I had fewer complaints about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Women, I couldn’t find much to praise, either. I expected that, though, since I wouldn’t anticipate a wild experience from this sort of semi-dramatic comedy. The soundfield focused relentlessly on the front spectrum, and music presented the most prominent element. The score showed good stereo imaging, and we got some minor ambience, but that was about it. Much of the chatty piece seemed nearly monaural.

Audio quality was usually fine. Speech suffered from iffy looping at times and also betrayed a bit of edginess. However, most of the lines sounded reasonably natural and concise. Effects didn’t have much to do, but they were acceptable for what they offered. Music appeared reasonably full and rich. There wasn’t enough here to merit a grad above a “C”, though, so don’t expect a memorable soundtrack.

In terms of extras, we start with two featurettes. The Women: The Legacy goes for 18 minutes, 45 seconds as it presents writer/director Diane English, producer Victoria Pearman, and actors Meg Ryan, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes, Annette Bening, India Ennenga, and Candice Bergen. “Legacy” looks at the roots of the original Women production as well as its modern adaptation, cast and performances, and challenges involved with the remake.

“Legacy” works best when it compares shots from the 1939 and 2008 versions of the film. It also provides a few good notes about the development of the remake. Unfortunately, too much of the program falls into “fluff mode” and just talks about how wonderful and empowering the remake is. That factor makes it a mediocre featurette.

The Women Behind The Women fills 10 minutes with notes from English, Pearman, Bening, Messing, Smith, Ryan, Ennenga, production designer Jane Musky, and makeup department head Julie Hewett. “Junior journalist” Cammy Nelson comes to the set and interacts with the actors and crew as she attempts to find out what makes women beautiful. It turns out that all women are special flowers, apparently! Sponsored by a soap company that receives product placement in the movie, this is a superficial and annoying piece of puffery.

Two Additional Scenes run a total of six minutes, 23 seconds. “Going Through the Guilty Stage” (1:25) shows more of crystal’s manipulation of Stephen, while “Who Are You, Mary?” (4:58) features more of Mary’s stay at the women’s retreat. Neither proves very interesting.

The DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Blu-Ray Disc, He’s Just Not That Into You and Nights in Rodanthe. No trailer for The Women appears here.

The 1939 version of The Women maintains a following as a minor classic. 69 years from now, I doubt that anyone will remember – or want to remember – the dire 2008 remake. Silly, fluffy and pointless, the movie simply churns out “you go, girl!” nonsense without anything to make it more substantial or compelling. The DVD provides mediocre, marginally flawed picture and audio along with bland extras. Stay far away from this tripe.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.375 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main