Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) seems to have it all: a beautiful home in Connecticut with housekeeper Maggie (Cloris Leachman), Swedish nanny Uta (Tilly Scott Pederson), a sweet 12 year old daughter (India Ennenga), a successful husband and a part-time designer role in her father's clothing factory. Her best friend Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening) is happily single and a career girl, a successful editor of a women's fashion magazine. Mary and Sylvie's close knit circle includes mother-hen Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and lesbian humor essayist Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith). But when Saks manicurist Tanya (Debi Mazar) spills the beans that her gold-digger friend Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes) at the perfume counter is having an affair with a wealthy, married man called Stephen Haines (Mary's husband), Sylvie is in a dilemma. Should she tell her friend?
Review by Louise Keller:
With its top drawer all-women cast and beguiling themes of love, betrayal and friendship, The Women canvasses every topic known to women in this slick, witty and hilarious romp. Based on George Cukor's 1939 film which in turn was based on Clare Boothe Luce's 1936 stage play, TV sitcom writer Diane English has concocted a marvellous screenplay that is magic in the hands of its talented cast headed by Meg Ryan and Annette Bening. Set in New York (where else?), it's a juicy exploration of women's roles in the 21st century - at work, at home and in the bedroom and although men figure in the storyline (natch), it is women-only who grace the screen. Three generations of them. The story begins with infidelity....
Hair tells us plenty about the women in this tale. When we meet Meg Ryan's Mary Haines with her perfectly formed corkscrew curls in her perfect Connecticut home and garden, we smell the fragrance of perfection. The perfect hostess, the perfect mother and the understanding wife all rolled into one. Her best friend, Annette Bening's Sylvie Fowler, the sleek fashion magazine editor with the immaculately straight blown chi-chi hair style is the cynical career woman. By film's end, both women's hairstyles have changed - as has their lives. For the better. 'Manicurists and florists know everything,' mutters Sylvie as she gets the dirt from the Saks Fifth Avenue manicurist (Debi Mazar) about Mary's philandering husband.
The film is crammed with scrumptious moments, like the scene when Bening's Sylvie, Debra Messing's pregnant Edith and Jada Pinkett Smith's lesbian Miriam's confront 'the other woman' whose fragrance is seduction (Eva Mendes, delectable as the provocative Saks perfume sales-girl). Candice Bergen plays Ryan's mother with the voice of experience ('don't be bitter... it leads to botox'), and Cloris Leachman's sharp-witted housekeeper who spits out lines like 'Your Pradas are wrecking my perennials.' We share a joint with Bette Midler's theatrical agent in rehab, plus there's a hilarious lingerie shopping sequence, a fashion parade, a race to the maternity ward and nonsensical conversations punctuated by female logic. We learn that betrayals are inevitable in any relationship but female friendships form the heart of this scintillating film about women who journey in a quest to discover what they really want. It's a treat!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Women run women's magazines - you know, the ones that bitch endlessly about women, pick them to bits, degrade them with photos taken on hidden cameras, maul them for their (lack of) fashion sense and laugh at their bad botox. Men don't do that; we run magazines the worst of which show blokes tackling each other in ugly scrums on the footy field. In muddy sports gear. We're the pussies. So any film about a group of women - friends or not - gets my attention. Fireworks are guaranteed.
Sure enough, Diane English makes her feature debut with a classic, filling it with a ripper cast, each of whom adds their weight in TNT to the detonations. Meg Ryan as Mary is at the centre as the wronged wife, and she's feisty and vulnerable, but also flawed as a mother. Plenty to get upset about. Annette Bening is her tormented and ultimately weak best friend, Sylvie, a wonderful action figure of a woman whose self confidence is less solid than it appears. Eva Mendes oozes sex as the femme fatale in a demanding role that could be overplayed, while Debra Messing is Edie, whose pregnancy (her fifth) is both a curse and a blessing. Jada Pinkett Smith rounds out the group of friends, whose gay bravado is paper thin.
Excellent comedic support from Cloris Leechman as Maggie the housekeeper, who, with Swedish nanny Uta (Tilly Scott Pederson), keep Mary's house in order - but can't quite manage the same job on her heart. Candice Bergen and Bette Midler are both great as Mary's wise mother and a powerful talent agent respectively, and young India Ennenga is terrific as Mary's 'on the verge of womanhood' dangerous daughter, Molly.
The Women was first a stage play in 1936, then a splendid movie in 1939, by George Cukor. This new and thankfully fresh production is funny, smart, opinionated, engaging and highly entertaining, with something to say.
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WOMEN, THE (PG)
CAST: Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bette Midler and Candice Bergen
PRODUCER: Diane English, Mick Jagger, Bill Johnson, Victoria Pearman
DIRECTOR: Diane English
SCRIPT: Diane English (play by Clare Boothe Luce)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anastas N. Michos
EDITOR: Tia Nolan
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jane Musky
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 23, 2008