In Her Shoes
In a story about two estranged sisters who must overcome years of anger and resentment while reconnecting with a lost relative, In Her Shoes certainly aims for the touchy feely crowd. But even with Cameron Diaz in it, the movie doesn't really come alive until Shirley MacLaine and her elderly sidekicks come into the story.
We meet the two very unlikely sisters while each are having sex. Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is a successful lawyer who is sleeping with her boss and thinking of ways it can improve her career. Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) is a party girl and at her 10-year high school reunion--after trying to have a fling in a bathroom stall--she ends up puking instead. Inevitably, Maggie gets kicked out of her dad and stepmother's house and winds up on the doorstep of her sister. The Feller girls were close once when they were young girls, especially after their mentally unstable mother died. But now their grown-up personalities clash rather dramatically. And when Maggie seriously crosses the line by seducing Rose's new boyfriend, the straw is broken. Forced out, Maggie stumbles upon some birthday cards from a long-lost grandmother and decides to go hit her up for cash. Turns out, Grandma Ella (Shirley MacLaine) lives in a senior citizen's community in Florida that gets its humor from Golden Girls re-runs. Maggie may ingratiate herself within this new environment but isn't any more redeemed by reconnecting with Ella. She still acts like a petulant child. But rather than throwing her out, Ella, along with the gang of old folk, forces Maggie to take some responsibility.
Collette (The Sixth Sense) is fantastic as the frumpy, pudgy Philadelphia lawyer who gives up everything so she can walk dogs and lead a simpler life. But she's done this many times before--and honestly, is so much better than Muriel's Wedding. Diaz (my personal favorite Charlie's Angel) doesn't need to stretch too far to play a conniving ditz with a heart. This is her There's Something About Mary role, albeit a tad more screwed-up, with a sister and lost grandma. So, that leaves MacLaine as the saving grace for any worthwhile acting in this movie. Despite the obvious shuffleboard clichés--and the occasional leers at Diaz by the old guys around the pool--when the old folk are around, the film gets lively, and tolerable, believe it or not. MacLaine leads the way with the quips and barbs but in a more subtle way than we are used to from this usually eccentric actress. The supporting cast of cranky cronies have some great moments, especially veteran actor Norman Lloyd as the blind professor who teaches Maggie a thing or two about manners, trust and family.
If this were Nora Ephron directing, that would have been one thing, but coming from Curtis Hanson, the Oscar-winner who gave us L.A. Confidential, it just doesn't mesh. Hanson can do quirky (Wonder Boys), he can do adventure (The River Wild), he can do hard-hittin' rap stories (8 Mile) and he can even do scary (Hand That Rocks the Cradle), but why in the world would he attempt a saccharine-soaked female family story that threatens to be a Crimes of the Heart tear-jerker? Screenwriter Susannah Grant, who adapted In Her Shoes from Jennifer Weiner's popular bestseller of the same name, also wrote Erin Brockovich and 28 Days. She understands strong female characters, but there's still a major layer of sugar coating that Hanson can't scrape off. He doesn't tone anything down from Grant's script--not the overly cute dogs, nor the embarrassing bridal shower, nor the expected moments of guilt-tripping between the ladies. Instead, he plods through the paint-by-number script and wraps it all up nicely into a crowd-pleasing film that is ultimately forgettable.
For the guys, this movie may be just as painful as going shoe shopping with a lady friend. Yet, it's refreshing to see Shirley MacLaine still has a bit of Irma la Douce left in her. Maybe she could keep the cast at her retirement community and do Cocoon: The Next Generation.