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Overall Rating

Awesome: 10.63%
Worth A Look30.63%
Average: 26.88%
Pretty Bad: 20%
Total Crap: 11.88%

12 reviews, 88 user ratings

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What Women Want (2000)
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by Stephen Groenewegen

3 stars

Ever see Jeff Bridges and Barbra Stresiand in The Mirror Has Two Faces? Or Andie MacDowell and Gerard Depardieu in Green Card? They were the first two examples that came to mind of romantic comedy pairings that didn’t exactly steam up the screen. Unfortunately, you can add Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt to the list. Which is a shame, because What Women Want starts out as an amiable comedy, with a few good laughs.

Gibson is Nick Marshall, an executive at Sloane Curtis, an upmarket Chicago advertising agency. Sloane Curtis is struggling to maintain its hold in the marketplace so the boss (Alan Alda) hires Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt) from a rival firm to help
capture the “women’s market” by teaching the male directors how to think like women (presumably the women directors we see at meetings can think for themselves). As Alda’s character tells the board, the lucrative demographic target for the late 1990s is 16-24 year old women.

Marshall’s a “man’s man” - a misogynist, in other words - who’s furious when McGuire takes over the creative director position he coveted. When a freak accident enables Marshall to overhear women’s thoughts, he gains the perfect opportunity for revenge. During the lengthy set-up, while Marshall is still unaware that women can think, we’re introduced to the three significant women in his life - his teenage daughter Alex (Ashley Johnson), business rival McGuire, and Lola (Marisa Tomei), an aspiring actress he can’t resist asking out while buying his morning coffee. The film-makers probably could have saved some time with these sequences, since Marshall is similar to the conservative action heroes that Gibson’s played so often; the sort of character who’s misgynistic and homophobic while he’s heroic, let alone on his days off.

The “freak accident” is the closest the film comes to a big comic set-piece, and director Nancy Meyers (she directed The Parent Trap, and wrote 1980s “chick flicks” Private Benjamin and Baby Boom) thinks it’s so great she has Marshall re-stage the scene the following night in a vain attempt to reverse the process. It’s unforgiveable to re-use the same jokes so quickly (imagine if Ben Stiller got his penis stuck twice during There’s Something About Mary), but it’s inexplicably funny seeing Mel Gibson - cursing, cigarette hanging out his mouth - wearing nail polish, struggling into pantyhose and waxing his legs. (Since all it takes to gain insight into the female mind is a shower of sparks, does this make male electricians more susceptible to
understanding women than the rest of us?)

When Marshall wakes up after the accident, he can hear women thinking inside his head as if they were speaking directly to him. This is where the fun really starts. Being able to read minds has a primitive appeal, and it’s a good foundation for a
battle-of-the-sexes comedy. Once he realises he’s hearing women think, Marshall’s instantly cowed. He feels attacked and besieged by women; he shrinks, becoming paranoid and insecure. He’s lost his self-confident swagger. It’s satisfying and funny to watch, since Marshall - used to winning games in the workplace - doesn’t see this as a strategic advantage; it just gives him a migraine. It takes a visit to a marriage counsellor (an uncredited Better Midler) to wake him up: since “men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and you speak Venusian, then women are yours”.

By having him too dumb to see this as a gift, writers Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa (working from a story by Diane Drake) are reassuringly telling us they’re not in love with this guy. Later, for contrived comic reasons, they have Marshall go through the humiliation of telling Lola that he’s gay (Gibson’s discomfort during this scene may not be acting, and he gives Marshall a homophobic, limp-wristed wave to end the scene). Gibson’s often a stolid screen presence, but he brings a devilish touch to this film’s early scenes. He does a great Sean Connery impression, and dons a top hat to dance - in homage to Bing Crosby - around his spacious apartment, with Frank Sinatra
on the soundtrack. Gibson was apparently inspired by Sinatra for his misogynist persona, and the rest of the film mechanically takes its cue from this. As well as Sinatra, Alan Silvestri provides a brassy score, and up-tempo renditions of Cole Porter
feature as background music.

The script has some snappy lines. I especially liked Tomei’s Lola, her mind wandering during sex, pondering “is Britney on Leno tonight?”, unaware that a rapidly-wilting Gibson is listening in. But the jokes don’t come as thick and fast as in
the 1940s Hollywood comedies the film aspires to. Structurally, What Women Want is a train wreck. It lurches from sub-plot to sub-plot (Marshall’s relationship with the principal women) with an alarming lack of subtlety, and reintroduces characters
you’d forgotten about or assumed were no longer significant. Dean Cundey’s cinematography - like Nancy Meyers’ direction - is generally effective, if unremarkable.

Helen Hunt’s is really a supporting role. She’s apparently a tough bitch in the workplace, something Hunt can’t convey (when she’s angry, she just seems frazzled). Deep down of course, McGuire only wants to be loved. She spends most of the film
helpless and confused, falling under Marshall’s spell, and unable to cope with the pace at Sloane Curtis. Hunt’s skill at seamlessly shifting from serious and level-headed to vulnerable and daffy is put to good use here. Despite her limited role,
she helps lighten up the movie. The rest of the cast is fine; Mark Feuerstein is pleasing as Marshall’s male confidante, and it’s a shame he vanishes from the film so early.

Marshall’s ability to hear thoughts diminishes as he falls for McGuire (should we assume he’s less bothered by women as he becomes more sensitive to their wants?). It’s a shame, because the comedy dries up with his ability to eavesdrop. Gibson’s
hairstyle changes (which another character pointlessly draws attention to) and he takes on a dour look. The life goes out of him and the film, and he looks as if he received bad news while making the movie (perhaps they were filming the weekend that The Patriot was pummelled by The Perfect Storm at the US box office). From hereon in, What Women Want becomes another soggy romantic comedy, starring two actors lacking the requisite chemistry. The ending feels tampered-with and rushed - as if an unruly preview audience in Kentucky wanted more romance at the end, and the
film-makers only had a few days to comply.

What Women Want has a calculated Hollywood feel in general, and I think the explanation lies in Alda’s throwaway line about the importance of the 16-24 female demographic. This film is What Women Want, according to Hollywood market research (16 year old girls get some Christine Aguilera on the soundtrack but will, I
suspect, be hard pressed to identify with Marshall’s whiny daughter).

The older-man-wins-younger-woman age gap isn’t as marked here as in Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty films (Gibson is either 45 or 50 according to the Internet Movie Database; Hunt and Tomei are 37 and 36 respectively), but I do wonder if dating an older man is really what most women fantasise about. The money isn’t even an excuse here - Hunt’s character is Gibson’s boss, and is supposed to be paid more. (Stephen Groenewegen)

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originally posted: 12/27/00 12:41:48
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User Comments

4/06/13 CC I usually hate romcoms, but great performance from Mel & great review. 4 stars
4/02/11 Monday Morning No excuse for a 165-minute running time. Way excessive. 2 stars
9/14/08 Bill H I hated the musical montage the most. 1 stars
8/19/08 Shaun Wallner Never laughed so hard in my Life!! 5 stars
2/09/08 Samantha P funny film, with great soundtrack! 4 stars
12/20/07 Wendell Maness Women are not too smart, easy to cheat on! 3 stars
7/11/07 Tiffany Losco funny, cute movie 5 stars
3/07/07 Stanley Thai A funny film and well-acted. 4 stars
7/11/06 srii romantic pretty funny moview 4 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen I refuse to believe women are as stupid as this movie portrays them 1 stars
5/24/06 ffffffffffffffffffff its romantic 4 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Taking Mr. "Sexiest man alive" down a peg is as fun as Scwarzenegger's "JUNIOR" 2 stars
9/05/05 Katie It was great! I loved it! 5 stars
4/27/05 chandrakanth k s soft ramance which is soothing 4 stars
9/14/04 Jack Sommersby TV-style development of TV-ish story premise. Well-acted, though. 2 stars
8/08/04 indian boy awesome movie one of the greatest 5 stars
9/16/03 Fluffy Ears Henkelschmidt IV Worst acting and unfunniest film of the year 1 stars
7/31/03 omar "surfur" youssef Well-casted, well-written, and well-made. A hilarious must-see! One of Gibson's finest. 5 stars
7/24/03 Kit Pretty funny movie 4 stars
7/18/03 Chris A little to commercialize but still fun as a whole. Ranges from hillarious to mild but fun. 4 stars
4/09/03 JL I thought this was a cute, light hearted movie. 3 stars
2/26/03 GMan Aaaaah....Helen Hunt....I would fuck you.... 2 stars
1/22/03 Pinkline Jones An insult to the intelligence. Gibson is simply awful. 1 stars
12/04/02 Gazza E Really good. One of the better romantic comedies of recent years. 4 stars
10/23/02 Charles Tatum Cloying and cutesy 2 stars
7/05/02 KMG It was okay....not used to seeing Mel in anything but crime or period pieces 3 stars
6/07/02 stud good 4 stars
3/28/02 Sery I thought this movie was so cute. Helen Hunt is a great actress. Jake-the voices ARE real 4 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Entertaining and fun. Not wasn't meant to be. 4 stars
1/09/02 hilary awesome 5 stars
1/08/02 Mr. Hat Mel Gibson is cool. I love this movie. 5 stars
12/28/01 Jake Struck by lighting? Is that healthy? The women's voices were phony at times and annoying! 2 stars
10/02/01 Kirk Well, at least it was different. Seeing Mel in pantyhose was worth the price of admission! 4 stars
10/02/01 Andrew Carden Pretty Funny and Delightful Movie. 4 stars
9/28/01 Vanmarsenille Rohnny nice way to spend an evening 4 stars
8/28/01 Anastasiou Dimitris Give the money of your ticket to a homeless!!! 1 stars
7/29/01 Jennifer Gaissert Loved Mel dancing with the hat, but poorly written 3 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg Fit women .Crap movie . 2 stars
7/24/01 SJKelley Expectations land like a thud. MsAsh's review is ridiculous. 2 stars
7/23/01 D.R. Unresolved to me- ok "you're fired but I still love-please stay" Very good otherwise 4 stars
7/18/01 KMK no real laughs. waste of time 1 stars
7/17/01 Piz Predictable, flat, boring, no surprises, no chemistry, What were Gibson and Hunt thinking? 2 stars
6/30/01 martin this review sucks - it's a great film 5 stars
6/13/01 J Excellent Comedy but err..."not-so" excellent drama overall a good movie. 4 stars
6/12/01 Terrie Smith A couple of good moments; Gibson & Hunt lack charisma as a romantic team.. 3 stars
6/09/01 Turtle After the first, juicy hour, crap is sandwiched into the film, and the end doesn't save it. 3 stars
5/30/01 Thatguy Gibson's cool, for the first hour. The rest sucks. 2 stars
5/22/01 Monday Morning Chick flick for female Mel fans. Otherwise very unremarkable. 3 stars
5/14/01 Movie Freek Cute, but disposable. 3 stars
5/14/01 Babybelle well I loved it...nice cosy mel-ting chocolate movie 5 stars
5/09/01 The Bomb 69 fun entertainment 4 stars
4/05/01 Hawkeye Who knew Mel could dance? Funny as hell to watch, if predictable. 4 stars
3/08/01 Ed Lewandowski Has its moments. Mainly boring. 3 stars
2/27/01 Matthew Bartley was so-so 3 stars
2/20/01 voyant A few good moments, but mostly disappointing. Wait for the video. 3 stars
2/18/01 Avenger Girl Very predictable, but Mel and Helen play great roles. Worth the money to see it 4 stars
2/15/01 Michael Nicholls No...nobody wants it! 1 stars
2/10/01 Franny Streder It was so awesome. Mel Gibson is so hot. 5 stars
2/10/01 Cathy Poirier very good movie, sexy Mel 5 stars
2/09/01 KyLe*BrOfLoVsKi Thank god Mel Gibson can't read my mind...I'd be thinking very dirty thoughts. >=) 4 stars
1/23/01 Piz long AND predictable...what a combo! 2 stars
1/23/01 Christopher Ruggles This film was a great film to see. I would go and pay the 7 dollars to see it again.=-) 5 stars
1/21/01 Teresa Maloney I loved it! 4 stars
1/20/01 mazi mimir 1 stars
1/19/01 JRN516 very very good 4 stars
1/19/01 Nick Excellent 5 stars
1/16/01 Belinda Way too long. 2 stars
1/03/01 Collegebrat19 This was a great movie I laughed the whole time. Mel Gibson gives an excellent performace. 5 stars
1/03/01 Zavon Too much crammed in to too short a space...there's a superior film trying to get out here. 3 stars
1/02/01 Hamburger the worst movie I've seen in a long time 1 stars
1/02/01 Jenny-My-Fur ok so we know helen and mel rock, but i am sorry this movie blew! 3 stars
1/01/01 Dario Better than what the critics say! 4 stars
12/30/00 Bassam So greet 4 stars
12/28/00 Sansnet Watkins I liked it; I thought the writing was pretty truthful and that Mel looked great 4 stars
12/28/00 Andrea The only funny parts were the ones already in the was dumb 1 stars
12/23/00 Monique A fantastic girly movie! 5 stars
12/21/00 orpy A few laughs, not believable but light entertainment 4 stars
12/20/00 poetcdh Good laughs, nice romantic comedy 4 stars
12/19/00 John Lyons Pretty good movie, Helen Hunt looked great! 4 stars
12/19/00 denise Great premise, poorly executed, should be titled "What stero-typical women want" 2 stars
12/18/00 fishie An Ok movie, a little thin in the storyline. Good one to wait and rent it. 4 stars
12/17/00 Angus moorehead Mel Gibson! What is the attraction? a mediocre actor, always been. 2 stars
12/16/00 Erik C. Thauvin God forbid us "men" would admit enjoying this movie. 4 stars
12/16/00 Boy In The Designer Bubble Just came back from this flick. Oh my god, Mel looked better in, Man Without A Face. 1 stars
12/16/00 Louis THIS MOVIE SUCKS! 1 stars
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  15-Dec-2000 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Jan-2007


  11-Jan-2001 (M)

Directed by
  Nancy Meyers

Written by
  Josh Goldsmith
  Kathy Yuspa

  Mel Gibson
  Helen Hunt
  Marisa Tomei
  Alan Alda
  Lauren Holly
  Bette Midler

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