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The Women
cast: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, and Candice Bergen

writer and director: Diane English

110 minutes (12) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
EIV DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Donald Morefield
"It's my face. Deal with it," snaps Sylvia (Annette Bening, capable of better 'bitchy' work than this) to a pushy saleswoman in the cosmetics department at Saks, New York. Popular television series Sex And The City still has very much to answer for. Here's another one of those oh, so-contemporary comedies with an ensemble cast of Hollywood actresses, ranging from good to awful. Updating the original movie storyline's pre-war concerns for the 21st century means it presents viewers with a whole new world, entirely - and yet not a brave one, because the principal themes (humorously inadvertent discovery of marital infidelity - with a complete absence from the screen of the spurned wife's adulterous husband, ensuing divorce hassles and even messier emotional revenge fallout, amidst various other female mid-life crises), are as simplistic and traditional as friendship and forgiveness not complex and unfashionable. Yet the really serious problem with The Women, as a modern comedy-drama, is this remake's unfortunately obvious typecasting.

Meg Ryan's rather pathetic turn as Mary, the betrayed doctor's wife, does not bode well for her changing-room confrontation with the 'other woman', a gold-digging 'spritzer girl' named Crystal (Eva Mendes, modelling supposedly 'daring' lingerie). Elsewhere in the predictably plotted mix of broken marriage and career rebuilding antics, the ladies who lunch amble open-mouthed through the weak script and look as disconnected (and noticeably safe) from any harsh social reality, as sleepwalkers in a bungalow. Debra Messing (Will & Grace) is dimly amusing as the baby-factory Edie. Jada Pinkett Smith (Matrix sequels) is the weakest link as lesbian Alex. There are upstaging cameo appearances by Carrie Fisher, Cloris Leachman (Lake Placid), and once-cute Debi Mazar (Space Truckers), while screen veteran Candice Bergen (putting the old boot into TV show Boston Legal) outshines them all effortlessly as the vaguely-distraught Mary's no-nonsense, sharp-tongued and yet ultimately wise mother.

Fiercely biting sarcasm from George Cukor's 1939 film production (derived from a stageplay by Clare Boothe) is here diverted into a tragically harmless farce. Blandly mechanistic in its cack-handed deconstructions and upbeat reconstructions of both feminism and femininity, cursed with badly feigned 'chick flick' sassiness, and then stuck with a somewhat quietly apologetic denouement, as if it were a nanny chiding everyone concerned for causing such a fuss over nothing, The Women is charmless fare with little appeal to either sex.

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