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Overall Rating

Awesome: 16.33%
Worth A Look73.47%
Average: 8.16%
Pretty Bad: 2.04%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 19 user ratings

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In Her Shoes
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by Erik Childress

"Not Just The Story Of My Sisters"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Many people might look at In Her Shoes and think they couldn’t relate because they’re not a woman and never had a sibling. Trust me when I say – sometimes having a pair of sisters is enough. That’s the funny thing about movies in how any subject matter, even that dismissed as Lifetime Channel material can grow from an attachment you may have to its doppelganger of reality. All well and good for individuals, but no one is going to personally relate just because the film critic did. I expected to find similar patterns in the fabric, but not to find such an engaging and often well-mannered tale of sisterly rivalry from the director of L.A. Confidential.

Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette are Maggie and Rose Feller. Maggie is the irresponsible one still living for the days of partying and multiple sex partners. Rose is the lawyer with barely enough time to conduct an office relationship with her own boss (Richard Burgi). Kicked out of the house by the stepmother they equally despise, Maggie moves in with Rose until she can get her act together; which in her world means becoming an MTV VJ. (And how dim is Maggie to not know her dyslexia would be a problem in such a field?) Unemployment and making a mess of the apartment is one thing, but when Maggie tempts Rose’s fling, she’s sent packing again.

To her bewilderment, Maggie discovers that she has a grandmother no one ever told her about. Ella (Shirley MacLaine) was somewhat astrocised from the family arising from complications involving the circumstances of their mother’s death and when Maggie comes knocking on her door in the Florida Del Boca Vista where she resides, she cautiously but happily takes her in. Meanwhile back in New York, Rose becomes disenchanted with the corporate life, taking up as a dog walker and beginning a tentative romance with former colleague, Simon (Mark Feuerstein). Both sisters couldn’t be further apart but slowly find themselves missing each other and coming closer as a result of it.

That loud collective chant you hear from guys reading this review has the familiar rhyming genre that is just the opposite of the testosterone’s pick-to-click. I am frequently hesitant to label such a film just-for-women unless it contains a healthy dose of “men-are-evil” speeches. That is not In Her Shoes. It doesn’t fall into the Pavlovian traps of estrogen-pleasing moments nor go for simplistic laughs with wacky senior moments in the old folks home. Just as her script for Erin Brockovich rose above what separates a movie starring Meredith Baxter and Julia Roberts, Susannah Grant unfolds the sister’s journey (from Jennifer Weiner’s novel) through discovery and good conversation which chooses to engage us in ways other than tear duct prodding.

While it is better than your atypical Fried Green Tomatoes or Beaches, there are still some clumsy bits within a running time (130 mins) which many coming in may consider excessive. A misunderstanding between Rose and Simon late in their relationship is way too clunky to lead to its resulting fight; more of a plot function than a reality (like happening to find a former professor as a patient in Maggie’s new digs.) After a montage or two of the sisters’ time away from each other, the film’s timeframe is unclear. Precisely how long has Rose been hiding the fact from her father (Ken Howard) that she has no idea where Maggie went? And why hasn’t he tried to contact her if he’s so concerned and still believes she’s staying with Rose? Also, their stepmother (Candace Azzara) is SO rabidly Jewish that stereotype advocates may find as the chalkboard nails in an otherwise subtle piece of storytelling.

After a foray into films (Charlie’s Angels, The Sweetest Thing) where Diaz flaunted an often annoying display of her sexuality, she fits right back into a mold where her comedic talents mesh fluently into that considerable sexuality. Maggie is a handful and a brat to boot. It will take considerable time for audiences to want to care about her, but Diaz does it without betraying the character into conventions of a quick turnaround into humanity. A large dose of credit must then be heaped to Ms. Collette, who has the least showy of the roles but envelops Rose into a model of breaking point restraint with a well-tempered wisdom of why she still loves her sister despite their demolition derby-type foibles when in close proximity. If Rachel Griffiths and Mare Winningham can collect Oscar nominations for their work as the more stable sisters in Hilary & Jackie and Georgia, respectively, then Collette absolutely deserves consideration for, maybe, her best performance to date. MacLaine also thankfully dials down what could have been a real diva performance, neglecting all inclinations for another sassy senior and turning Ella into a woman enjoying her twilight years treading lightly on how to reacquaint herself with the family that left her behind years ago.

The knee-jerk reaction to knowing Curtis Hanson is behind the camera for this tale is a big “Wha-HA?” But if you look back on Hanson’s career before 8 Mile and the criminally overlooked, Wonder Boys, you’ll discover a history populated by strong feminine heroines (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, The River Wild). After those two run-of-the-mill genre pics, who knew he was up to the challenge of the Oscar-winning L.A. Confidential? Some directors work within a particular strength, others spread their talents around and make it impossible for us to pin them down. Hanson belongs to that latter category, continuing to perfect his skills for character-based narratives. This is not a sellout project in anyway (nor an apology from executive producers Ridley & Tony Scott for their own male-driven projects), but an intelligent and moving effort from the last places you would expect. Unless, of course, you have sisters.

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originally posted: 10/07/05 14:29:15
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/29/10 Luisa Touching yet funny movie, love it! 4 stars
1/15/09 Anonymous. a happy, heartwarming film. :D 4 stars
3/12/07 Riki Still not sure about Diaz, but loved the rest 4 stars
3/07/07 Stanley Thai Not a chick flick that is very good. 5 stars
9/01/06 Carol Baker another chick flick Shirly Macclaine is in 3 stars
8/28/06 anthonyuk a nice heart warming film 4 stars
5/08/06 Diane Perkins didn't care for this movie, long and boring. Cameran Diaz not very likeable 2 stars
5/03/06 Ashley Hinz Nice film, but rather forgettable. 4 stars
12/07/05 Cedric OMG, near-bare glimpse of Cameron's kaka-kissers almost made me fancy her pupu good to eat! 4 stars
11/24/05 noops a nice simple story of love b/w 2 sisters 4 stars
10/24/05 Maalstrom A fullfilling sisterhood drama with some decent laughs 4 stars
10/19/05 Kurt its so seldom we laugh..this is one make you laugh and you walk out smiling... 5 stars
10/15/05 Suzz good film; elevates the genre 4 stars
10/14/05 Julie Wenders many genuine moments here and some of them are lingering to promote an active tear duct! 4 stars
10/12/05 rebecca it ok but could be a bit more better 3 stars
10/12/05 Josh Swanson Good movie, worth seeing, but the director has made better movies, just in different genres 4 stars
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  07-Oct-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2006



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