If the title alone didn’t give it away and one knew nothing about this film’s background, then there might be some very disappointed audience members. For the remake and modernization of the play and the 1939 film of the same name still holds true to the original concept: there are no men on screen at all during this film.
This film is all about women: how they relate to one another, how they talk and what they talk about, and how they deal with the stress of being modern women. The story focuses around Mary Haines (Meg Ryan, “In the Land of Women”) and her troubled marriage. The crux of the story begins when Mary’s best friend Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening, “Running with Scissors”) finds out that Mary’s husband has been sleeping with a perfume salesgirl. Does she tell her friend or not? Yet Mary eventually does find out and she struggles to cope with both this information and her female friends as they support and betray her by turns.
The modernization is quite clever and works very well. Where the original film focused more on the negative aspects of female interactions-the catty behavior, the gossip mongering, the fighting and back-stabbing-this film did a great job of bringing the plot twists back from that dark side in a realistic manner, instead of the deux ex machina that this story has always suffered from.
This time friendships aren’t lost forever, but get the chance to mend as only female relationships can. The main character doesn’t just accept the situation and over time simply forgives her spouse, this time she finds herself and a career and grows before the ultimate denouement.
The film did an excellent job of keeping the same characters, the same plot and even the same fashion show (not in the middle of the film this time though), but it gave it that modern twist that today’s audiences would need to appreciate and enjoy it. There was even plenty of laughter to be had at some of the clever additions to the dialogue alone. The writers did an excellent job of pepping up the wittiness of the script for today’s women to appreciate.
Not to mention the casting is chock full of the cr?me de la cr?me of female actresses. While the main characters certainly have recognizable faces, so do a lot of the minor characters. Candice Bergen (“Boston Legal”) plays Mary’s mother, Cloris Leachman (“Spanglish”) plays Mary’s housekeeper, and Bette Midler (“The First Wives Club”) plays the serial monogamist who changes Mary’s perspective after her divorce, just to name a few of the talents to be found in the film. And every casting choice and subsequent performance is perfect for the roles they are placed in, making this a truly successful ensemble piece.
Yet for all that it has going for it, there is still one thing that makes the film seem a bit removed from the reality of the modern woman. This particular group of females resides in the social strata of the upper crust of Manhattan. Reminiscent of what “The Nanny Diaries” should have been as a film, there is some question as to whether or not these characters will really grab audiences’ heartstrings because they are so unrealistic. Yes, they may have some of the same issues as the rest of the world (like failing marriages), but they have expansive mansions and retreats to yoga sessions at expensive camps to help them cope.
In the end, it is the humor that makes this film enjoyable. It might have good writing and acting, and it might have a good storyline, but it is the humor that redeems it from the edge of elitism and brings it back down to earth for the average viewer. With funny scenes like one of the gals giving birth, this movie makes the audience laugh along with these characters in situations everyone can relate to. It is this that will make it an enjoyable two hours more than anything else.