It was nice to see Shirley McLaine resurface in movies in 2006. It gives everyone something to talk about outside of her “past life” experiences and her strange new age way of thinking. I personally have always enjoyed McLaine as an actress. When she was younger, she had such a sweet, wispy quality to her. As she aged, she grew into a more mature comedian with a hint of sexiness in her performances. And, of course, everyone remembers her amazing turn in “Steel Magnolias.” She stole every scene she was in.
McLaine had two successful movies this past year in “Rumor Has It” and “In Her Shoes.” In both she played a basically sassy older woman with a bit of a hidden past. Sounds a lot like McLaine herself, don’t you think?
“In Her Shoes” was a screen adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s best-selling novel. It focus on the relationship between two sisters – – Rose (played by Toni Collette) and Maggie (played by Cameron Diaz). Where Rose is overweight and rather plain, her sister is ridiculously thin and absolutely stunning. Where Rose works almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Maggie prefers not to work at all. Where Toni has no luck with men, Maggie throws them away like yesterday’s newspapers. Still, the two sisters have managed to remain relatively close over the years. That is until Maggie’s irresponsible behavior gets her kicked out of her father’s house. Because she has no where else to go, she decides to crash on Rose’s couch. This ignites a series of disasters that end up with Maggie throwing her sister out.
With no job, no money, and no one to take her in., Maggie decides to search for her mother’s mother; the grandmother (McLaine) that she never knew. She finally tracks her down to a retirement community and, without batting an eyelash, Maggie moves in. As Maggie settles into her new digs with hopes of using her impressive skills of manipulation and charm to her benefit, Rose decides to quit her stifling job and begins her own personal transformation. What results is a coming together story of family who never really knew each other before and really didn’t care to, until now. It is wonderful to watch because of the perfect nuanced performers in the three key roles.
Collette was a bit of a revelation in this film. I barely noticed her acting work prior to this movie. Now I find myself looking for movies in which she plays. She realistically portrayed the every woman role that is so much a part of all of us. She not only showed the depth and breadth of her transformation through hair, makeup, and wardrobe, but the audience was privy to each minor change which was revealed with clarity in the look on her face, the way she carried her body, and her overall attitude.
I found Diaz a little more irritating than usual in her role as Maggie. The girl starts out so self-centered and self-absorbed that it is hard to care about what happens to her. It isn’t until she is well into her own transformation that the audience once again buys into the import of her character overall.
The delight in this movie actually was the extras; the senior citizens that were used for the scenes in the retirement community. While I’m certain some of them were indeed actors, others obviously were not and they were every bit as wonderful to watch as their practiced cohorts. They were funny, endearing, charming, and all too real.
Director Curtis Hanson has proven to be a flexible artist with films like “L.A. Confidential,” “8 Mile,” and “In Her Shoes.” He seemingly jumps from genre to genre with the prowess and confidence of those studio directors of Hollywood’s Golden Age. And his work easily elevates the “chick flick” by crafting a story of surprising depth and universal appeal.
The screenplay by Susannah Grant, who also did “Erin Brockovich” is wonderfully written and, it seems, tailored made for the actresses who played the key roles.
While I wish I could say that sisters don’t turn on each other the way these two do, the truth is that it does happen. However, they usually also find their way back together just as do Rose and Maggie. “In Her Shoes” is aptly named, as all of us would be better off if we could walk in each other’s shoes. There is a moral here and it is a good one. I easily give this film four out of five stars.
“In Her Shoes” is a Fox 2000 Picture in conjunction with Scott Free/Deuce Three Productions. It carries a PG-13 rating for sexual situations and questionable language.