"In Her Shoes": Some Thoughts
Relegating In Her Shoes to the ghetto of chick flick, as I had before seeing it, does injustice to this Curtis Hanson-directed dramedy. Boasting solid storytelling and universal themes, the film is far more ambitious and insightful than its advertising campaign would have you believe.
Based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner, the always-dependable Toni Collette and always-underrated Cameron Diaz star as, respectively, sisters Rose and Maggie Feller. The women are close, but eons apart. Rose is the responsible, level-headed one. Maggie is promiscuous, nearly illiterate and conniving. After Maggie screws one guy too many -- namely, Rose's would-be love interest -- the hussy skips town to mooch off her estranged grandmother, Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine). What follows are all the expected character arcs, valuable life lessons and revelations, but hey, those can be good things -- really good things -- if they're presented honestly and artfully.
And they are here. Hanson lets the story unfold gracefully. While not a leisurely paced film, Susannah Grant's poignant, economical screenplay is character-driven enough to appreciate the simple joys of learning about the people you've invested two hours of your time watching.
At its core, In Her Shoes far exceeds expectations -- at least it did mine. It is not a perfect film, by any means. Sentimentality, almost by definition, takes some highwire steps for the sake of emotional resonance. In Her Shoes has its inevitable moments of contrivance and pat reconciliations, but such stumbles are few and far between. The thematic soul of the picture -- the bonds and rivalries of family, the pain of shared responsibility, redemption -- transcend "chick flick" pigeonholing.