Annette Bening (left), Jada Pinkett Smith and Debra Messing: you won’t buy this.
THE WOMEN Written and directed by Diane English from the play by Clare Booth Luce, with Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Meg Ryan and Candace Bergen. An Alliance release. 114 minutes. Opens Friday (September 12). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
I'm all for chasing the female demographic in the summer of Batman, Iron Man and Whatever-Man. But The Women tries way too hard.
This remake of the 1939 film of the same name has an all-female cast - and I mean it. There isn't a word of dialogue delivered by a guy. In fact, no men appear at any time during the film, including on the street.
That's kinda cool, but the story is ridiculous. Annette Bening plays Sylvia, a beleaguered fashion mag editor who discovers via her mouthy manicurist that the husband of her best friend, Mary (Meg Ryan), is having an affair with Saks perfume clerk Crystal (Eva Mendes).
Bening and the rest of Mary's gal pals - played by Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith - do what they can to support poor Mary, which includes setting up a ludicrous confrontation in the lingerie department between Mary and the dreaded "spritzer" and encouraging Mary to go to a resort for dumped wives.
Some of this worked in the original version because director George Cukor plays up the high camp. It's got a broad comic performance by Rosalind Russell as Sylvia, Joan Crawford's deliciously vampish turn as Crystal and an all-out parody of beauty spas and the women who frequent them.
This version does take a small poke at the cosmetic surgery industry - supremely ironic, since I kept wondering whether Meg Ryan is growing into her famously collagened lips or I'm just getting used to them.
It's full of clichés about female friendship, comedy that's not very funny - except when vets Candice Bergen as Mary's mum and Bette Midler as a pot-smoking divorcée are on the screen - plus an unsuccessful attempt to update the plot. (Ooh, Pinkett Smith plays a dyke!) We're expected to feel empathy for a bunch of wealthy women who can't keep their personal lives together. Even the Feist tunes on the soundtrack can't make us do that.