In Her Shoes (United States, 2005)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

Some movies are simply made for women, and heterosexual men have no hope of appreciating them, I suppose. Do you like shoes? False sentimentality? Something that mistakes generalizations for insight? Then In Her Shoes is the film for you. Curtis Hanson's slack follow-up to his rapper hero-worship outing, 8 Mile, is a disappointing look at sisterhood based on the chick novel by Jennifer Weiner. A frequently saccharine and false motion picture, In Her Shoes wants to elicit tears it never earns and tie everything together into a tidy bundle that leaves no cliché untouched. Artificial in both its dialogue and its construction, the film only works - on those occasions when it works - because of the sincere performance by the underrated Toni Collette.

Hanson is a notoriously uneven filmmaker who is capable of reaching amazing heights and plunging to depressing depths. The auteur who dazzled us with L.A. Confidential and Wonder Boys is missing in action. Even the director of the less edgy but nevertheless respectable 8 Mile is nowhere to be found. Instead, we have a screenplay and result more in line with something to come out of Garry Marshall or Nancy Meyers' workshop.

Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose (Toni Collette) are sisters with diametrically opposite personalities. Rose is sweet, timid, and dedicated - a top lawyer who works long hours. Maggie is sexy, lazy, shallow, and self-centered - an unemployed party girl who ends her nights passed out on someone's couch. After being kicked out of her home by her wicked stepmother, Maggie moves in with Rose. She quickly wears out her welcome (sleeping with her sister's boyfriend is not an ideal approach to foster goodwill), so she heads to Florida to meet her long-lost maternal grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacLaine). In Maggie's absence, Rose finds a new beau (Mark Feuerstein as the token love interest) and learns to have fun. Meanwhile, during her stay with Ella, Rose grows up and becomes responsible.

The screenplay is a plot-by-number production that feels like a cross between a Lifetime made-for-TV movie and an episode of The Golden Girls. On the acting front, in addition to the wonderful Toni Collette, there's Cameron Diaz doing a convincing job as a spoiled brat (one hopes she's acting…), and Shirley MacLaine playing the same role she always plays these days. Collette steals the movie when she's around, but she doesn't have quite enough screen time to save the proceedings. It has life when she's on screen but becomes inert when she's not around. And some of the scenes in Florida reek of the "aren't old people cute?" formula. At 130 minutes, In Her Shoes is too long for the slight material.

In Her Shoes (United States, 2005)

Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein
Screenplay: Susannah Grant, based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner
Cinematography: Terry Stacey
Music: Mark Isham
U.S. Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Run Time: 2:10
U.S. Release Date: 2005-10-07
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Profanity, Sexual Situations)
Genre: DRAMA
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1