by Bill Hawk
IN HER SHOES
Toni Collette: “Without her, I don’t make sense.”
Ahh, the sound of co-dependency. Collette and younger sister Cameron Diaz are polar opposites who have been orbiting around each other since childhood. Said childhood was marred by a tragedy which saw their loving mother replaced by a stepmom who should be wearing a black hat and riding a broom, although the sisters still get along well enough with their father. The girls’ real problem is getting along with each other. Collette is the plain, studious, repressed one, throwing herself into her job at a Philadelphia law firm. Diaz is the irresponsible sexpot, flitting from job to job and from man to man. Whenever Diaz stumbles, Collette is there to help her back up, despite the fact that her repayment is often a kick in the hindquarters. But a tiff over a man splits the sisters apart, and sends them each on a long-delayed (and badly-needed) trek of self-discovery and change. Collette makes a rather quirky career shift and hooks up with her first “Real boyfriend.” And Diaz winds up in sunny Florida, re-establishing contact with her long-forgotten grandmother, Shirley MacLaine. There are some thorny moments along the way, and some old family scars have to be scratched before they can heal, but sometimes a little turmoil can be a good thing.
Director Curtis Hanson and screenwriter Susannah
Grant’s take on Jennifer Weiner’s novel is an affecting, if hardly
subtle, piece of work. Where the film succeeds, it does so almost in spite of
itself, as its true and funny moments struggle against some stereotypical plot
elements and characters. Indeed, there are times when the whole thing edges
into the parody zone, but the actors inject enough life into the story to keep
it from floating away on a wave of chuckles. Collette is particularly good-
even when you want to give her character a good shaking for the nonsense she
puts up with, she remains sympathetic. Diaz is cast for type, as a fading hottie,
but she delivers in the emotional department as well. And MacLaine is, well,
MacLaine- an old pro who anchors every scene that she’s in. If you’re
up for something with some sharp character interaction, which puts a life-affirming
gloss over its conflicts- and which throws in some wisecracks, cute pets, and
retail therapy- you could do a lot worse than to give this disc a spin. Extras
are limited to several featurettes.
TWO FOR THE ROAD
“You haven’t been happy since the day we met,
have you? If only you were ten
years younger and you knew then what you know now.”
If only. Of course, in movies you can turn back the clock, and show the progression of a relationship like the one between Hepburn and husband Albert Finney. The couple is on a road trip, taking extra travel time to hash over some of the issues in their strained marriage, and recalling the events that led them to their current unhappy state. Many of said events featured other road trips, like their hitchhiking adventures when they first met, and the jaunting around that they did in an old MG sports car, the latter being a ticket both to adventure and to mechanical misfortune. Another journey, with some married friends and their child, showed them a version of family life that they definitely didn’t want to emulate- but their basic dilemma may lie in the fact that they got married at all. Finney was not the marrying kind, but found that he couldn’t live without Hepburn….and for a while, they were happy. Until the usual sorts of stresses started to crop up, anyway. What with work and financial pressures, parenthood, and the march of time, it’s no surprise that some cracks started to appear in the old marriage bond- and that some grievous misdeeds were committed. The question for the couple now is, do they try to get back on track, or go their separate ways?
This cult favorite is a little dated, but with the star power
and scenic locations in front of the camera, and the likes of director Stanley
Donen and composer Henry Mancini behind the camera, it provides an unusual and
realistic look at romance. The obvious metaphor for the couples’ marriage
as a trip down the rocky road of life is employed in an interesting way, with
a fractured timeline that jumps around to contrast their relationship at different
periods. The gimmicky transitions between these scenes, and some over-the-top
comedic moments, can be distracting- but there are just as many bits that are
charming and funny and dramatically spot-on. Hepburn and Finney can be both
the best and the worst thing in each other’s lives, and that makes their
love story a universal one. Plus, you get to see an MG self-destruct, and Hepburn
model some wacky 1960s fashions! Recommended if you’re looking for something
a little off the beaten track as a Valentine’s Day flick. Disc extras
include some stills and an informative audio commentary by director Donen.
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© Melt Magazine 2006