Saturday, December 1, 2012
IN HER SHOES
(October 2005, U.S.)
Every once in a while, I find myself in the position of having to justify and rationalize the idea of men wanting to (or having to!) sit through a film that would qualify itself as a so-called "chick flick". Curtis Hanson's IN HER SHOES is hardly what I'd call the traditional stupid chick flick. This is a film about grown-ups (well, unless Cameron Diaz can REALLY qualify as one!); grown-up sisters Maggie and Rose (Diaz and Toni Collette) who love each other, hate each other, depend on each other, want to kill each other, and ultimately learn to forgive each other. The rather special twist here is also the relationship these sisters have with their estranged grandmother Ella (played by Shirley Maclaine).
The backstory of the Feller sisters is something that could be claimed right out of a Lifetime movie of the week. Their mother was killed in a car accident when they were little, they were raised by their father and supposedly "wicked" stepmother and they were unwillingly cut off from knowing their grandparents. In their adulthood, Rose (Collette) is a rather nerdy, very responsible lawyer who actually finds it necessary to take a picture of her lover in bed next to her just to confirm the fact that someone as awkward and inadequate as herself actually got laid! Maggie, on the other hand, is a jobless, family-dependent slut who'll fuck just about any guy if it means free drinks (Hey...I think I'm starting to like her!). However, sleeping with Rose's lover out of anger and revenge is the last straw that sends her packing and out of Rose's life. By perfect movie coincidence, this is when Maggie discovers she has a grandmother living in Florida.
As perfect movie cliche would have it, Maggie's intentions with her new reunion with her long-lost grandmother are for nothing more than to scam a free meal ticket out of her until she finally decides to wake up, grow up, get a job and embrace her relationship as a grandaughter for the true value it holds. As movie cliche would also have it, Rose wakes up, as well, and learns how to let go of her inhibitions, her anxieties and to embrace life and love for all of their true value. Her reunion with Ella is a much more pleasant and embracing action for her because given the turmoil these girls went through as children, it would have been real nice to have a grandmother in their lives.
Beyond the cliches that I mention, which by the way, I don't claim to be anything negative here (they do seem to work for the type of human, emotional story being told here), the film makes a very poignant attempt to take a look at the precious (and often fragile) relationships people can have with a grandparent. For myself, it got me thinking of and remembering the relationship I had with my grandmother (my father's mother). I only got to know her for the first thirteen years of my life before she died, but even as an adult in my forties, I often think about her and I've never forgotten what she meant to me and how much I meant to her in return. In fact, only a week ago when my six year-old son and I were watching BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985), he asked me what I would do if I could travel back in time. My immediate answer was that I would go back and see my grandmother (insert "Awwww!" here!). By the way, my grandmother's sister's name was also Ella.
IN HER SHOES in an extremely lighthearted switch from the man who'd previously directed some real hardcore material like THE RIVER WILD (1994) and L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997). In fact, it was probably the only reason I showed any curiousity in this film in the first place when I went to see it with my wife at the neighborhood movie theater (that's right, I wasn't dragged. It was actually my idea!). In retrospect, it was the perfect lighthearted contemporary adult comedy/drama that I needed on a rather dreary day in October 2005.
One final note I thought I'd put out there. In this film, Maggie and Rose are supposed to be Jewish girls (last name Feller!). Guys, have you EVER in your life known a Jewish girl that looked like Cameron Diaz??? No, you haven't!!!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Simon Stein: "Does this mean that I'm your bitch?"
Rose Feller: "Do you want to be my bitch?"
Simon: "I have wanted to be your bitch since my first day at Dommel."