Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language
Genres: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Runtime: 97 Minutes
Distributors: Warner Bros. Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures International
Written and directed by Jon Kasdan; In the Land of Women lacks plot but not potential. Just like the main character Carter Webb (Adam Brody, star of last years hit TV show The O.C.) the movie can’t make up its mind. It drifts from Drama to Comedy to Romance and back again.
The movie starts where a love ends. The setting scene opens up in a very familiar place. Carter is being dumped by his attractive movie-star girlfriend, Sofia (Elena Anaya). As the tears start to well-up in his eyes an instant connection is formed between the audience and Carter. This and his boyish charm make Adam Brody’s character very likeable. In a moment of loneliness and desperation Carter decides to move to Michigan to take care of his dying grandmother. He seizes this as a chance to leave L.A. and write a paper about his High School he’s been meaning to write since age fifteen.
Upon arriving in suburban Detroit you meet the hilarious grandmother Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis). She is obsessed with the fact that she is dying, although the doctors find no physical evidence. Phyllis provides much of the comic relief in this film with her unexpected wisdom and never-ending crankiness. More importantly you are introduced to Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan after her plastic surgery) the neighbor of Phyllis. Sarah is the wife of a cheating husband and mother of two daughters.
A couple of strolls around the block builds Sarah’s and Carter’s relationship into something on the level of soul-mates. The conversations these two share bring about a kind of yearning and desire, the kind a new love might produce. At first it seems honest enough but when you find out Sarah has been diagnosed with breast cancer and a cheating husband you begin to question her intentions. Even if you have never experienced the turmoil that comes along with cancer, Meg Ryan portrays the pain and suffering so well that you being to feel it too.
One very emotional scene is one shared between Sarah and her young daughter, Paige. They go out for ice cream as a chance for Sarah to tell her about the cancer. It seems a little silly at first when Paige admits to taking a twenty dollar bill out of her mother’s purse. But soon you see the point she is trying to make. She explains that besides that, she has told her mother everything and has never lied to her. She asks in return that she doesn’t lie to her. “If you promise that you will be okay I believe you because I know you would never lie to me.” This innocent action of love and hope was enough to deliver that painful sting you feel behind your eyes when you are holding back tears.
Sarah asks her teenage daughter Lucy to take Carter to a movie out of sympathy for his loneliness and current loveless situation. What seems as a goodhearted gesture soon complicates the entire situation. As the movie poster somewhat inaccurately portrays, Lucy soon falls for Carter; despite the fact that she is trying to hook up with the captain of the football team. Although it was just one unwanted, unexpected kiss it is enough to turn things inside out when Lucy’s mother sees it from the window.
This adds distance to the already torn apart bond of mother and daughter. Lucy blames her mother for most everything wrong in her both their lives. Instead of being mad at her father for having an affair she puts all the blame on her mother. Their relationship is one all mother’s with teenage daughters can relate to, adding to the emotional impact of the film.
Carter writes a letter to Sarah, the kind of love letter she had never received. But when he goes to deliver it, unaware of the fact that she had seen the kiss, she tells him to stay away and to never touch her daughter again. Carter leaves the envelope in her purse without her knowing. It rips your insides apart as Carter walks sadly back across the street and returns to loneliness once again. Can Carter Webb escape from his own web he has weaved?
The turning point is when Sarah gets sick and no one is around to help except Lucy. She tries to call her father but is informed by the secretary that he has stepped out, leading you to assume he’s with his other women. Lucy hangs up. This is where the angry shifts from her mother to her father. And helps her mother to the hospital. For a minute you wonder if this is the end. But the family is soon re-united in the hospital room where you see that Sarah is still alive. A heart-to-heart, healing talk is shared between mother and daughter. The scene ends with the discovery of Carter’s love letter. A letter so touching and revealing and yet at the same time merely a thank you note.
A short amount of time is spent on tying up lose strings. You assume Sarah lives and her family is re-united and everyone lives happily-ever-after. All thanks to the intervention of broken-hearted Carter Webb. Lucy realizes who she really loves and then makes amends with her mother. Phyllis is found dead in her chair. Sarah is okay and says these last two words to Cater, “You’re welcome”. And as for Carter? He meets a waitress in a café, who kind of resembles Sofia, and asks her to help him finish his story. Although the plot is never revealed, the emotions that this film digs up from inside of you is reason enough to see it.