Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In Her Shoes

IN HER SHOES (Curtis Hanson, 2005)

Toni Collette’s Rose has a loving but exasperating relationship with her party girl sister Maggie(Cameron Diaz) in IN HER SHOES. Aside from a shared fondness for footwear, the two couldn’t be more different. Rose is the practical one who works hard at the office and struggles to get and keep a man in her life. Maggie can barely hold down any job, choosing instead to exploit her genetic superiority to snag well-heeled men to support her. Eventually Rose has enough of Maggie’s freeloading and throws her out, leaving her to turn to a grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) neither of them know at all.

IN HER SHOES director Curtis Hanson again demonstrates his uncommon touch for storytelling with more of a literary approach. Working from Susannah Grant’s adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s chick-lit novel, Hanson’s loose direction lets the film meander, to soak up the tone, while still hitting the pivotal yet familiar developments in the plot.

Diaz and Collette are playing types, but they are given room to embody the characters, frequently with surprising results. Diaz’s Maggie proves to be more than just a good-time girl, although discovering her deeper dimensions requires moving into a retirement community. Maggie could have easily been just an object of scorn and ridicule, but Diaz finds the complexity that makes her character relatable. Likewise, Collette doesn’t characterize Rose as a martyr or someone who has all the answers.

IN HER SHOES may not look much different than other female relationship films, but when faced with the choice to follow convention or not, it usually goes the other way. It’s practically a given that such a film will end with a wedding, but it’s a rarity, one found here, that such a scene will feel fresh. A funny, generous film with strong performances, IN HER SHOES redeems the often derogatory "chick flick" label.

Grade: B

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