I almost passed up renting the recently released movie entitled “In the Land of Women.” Although it starred one of my favorite actresses – – Meg Ryan – – I didn’t recognize the name of the younger leads and I knew very little about the movie itself. However, I’m glad that I decided to rent it. It was well worth the $4.
The film follows the life of 26-year-old Carter Webb, played by amiable actor Adam Brody. A writer of soft porn movie scripts, Webb’s life is forever altered when the supposed love of his life, a young actress by the name of Sophia (Elena Anaya) breaks up with him.
Tired of his life, his boss, and his failure at love, Carter decides to take break from his world and moves to suburban Detroit to take care of his ill grandmother. He hopes the change of scenery, the slower pace of life, and rural town atmosphere will help him clear his head.
His grandmother, played by veteran actress Olympia Dukakis, both puzzles and stimulates him in strange ways. He is touched by her childlike quality and her need for his aid and support, but equally frustrated with her focus on death and dying.
As Carter struggles with his own inner turmoil, he finds himself also caught up in the lives of the Hardwicke women; a family that lives across the street from him. He is intrigued with the rebellious teenage Lucy, played by Kristen Stewart and enchanted with her younger sister, Paige, as played by Mackenzie Vega. But he finds himself particularly drawn to their mother, Sarah (Ryan); a woman who is obviously struggling with her own place in the world.
He and Sarah begin taking walks together and sharing their innermost secrets and hearts desire. He tells her about his devastating breakup. She shares the fact that she knows her husband in having an affair. Before long, he realizes that both she and her daughters have taught him a great deal about life, love, and the illusive search for happiness.
Although I would have loved it had these characters been more fully developed so that the audience could associate with them 100%, I still loved this movie. I appreciated how it showed that the simplest acts of kindness could change a complete stranger’s reality of the world and how friendship is more about sacrificing for the other person than getting something back in return.
With just a little more work, this could have been a great film. As it is, it is still a good film and one that I could easily recommend. It isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but is has a handful of real gemlike moments that make it worthwhile.
Ryan, as always, was touching, sweet, sexy, and earthy all at the same time. Stewart, although a little too rough at times, managed to convince me, through her mannerisms and expressions, that she really was Ryan’s daughter.
Vega was a sweet breath of fresh air to this film. We could seriously have used more of her.
Brody was close to perfect in this role. In the beginning, I thought I wouldn’t like his character. He seemed so shallow and ungrounded, but by the film’s end I was rooting for him to find success with every fiber of my being.
Dukakis – – an actress I can normally take or leave – – was hilarious in her role as Carter’s grandmother. She was both poignant and heartbreaking. She was funny and touching. She was near spot-on perfect.
The film was both written and directed by Jon Kasdan. I think he did a good job on the directing end of the project. However, as I said before, I think he could have done a much better job on character development.
Some of the situations seemed too forced, too quick, or too unlikely. I’m sure this resulted from the need to cram so much story into such a short time frame, but in this instance it really did hurt the film. An extra 15 or 20 minutes might have made all the difference in the world.
Still, as I said, I liked this movie. I give it three and one-half out of five stars. I have to deduct one full star for lack of character development and a half star for some unnecessary additions to the cast, but overall, this movie definitely deserves to be seen.