Film » Screens

Goy Gevalt

In Her Shoes is pretty but useless, a Prada with a broken heel.

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Director Curtis Hanson, a journeyman only recently bestowed with the title of Great Director, has already made his horror movie (1973's The Arousers), his kiddie action comedy (1980's The Little Dragons), his teen sex romp (1983's Losin' It ), his handful of Hitchcock riffs (1987's The Bedroom Window, 1990's Bad Influence, and 1992's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle), his theme-park water ride (1994's The River Wild), his film noir (1997's L.A. Confidential), and his Karate Kid homage (2002's 8 Mile, starring Eminem in the Ralph Macchio role).

The only thing missing from his filmography, which includes the wondrously earthy Wonder Boys, is his science-fiction epic; not anymore. In Her Shoes, yet one more Hanson movie that began as a bestseller, fills that void, offering up a two-plus-hour tale in which we're to believe not only that Cali gal Cameron Diaz and Aussie Toni Collette are sisters, but also very Jewish. Lest you think this unimportant, this bit of kosher chick-lit is taught in a Jewish Studies course at the University of Pennsylvania, alongside works by Roth and Bellow. I believe the phrase you're looking for is: Oy vey.

Alas, if that were the movie's greatest problem, it could overcome such a lousy pairing; James Caan and Al Pacino didn't look like brothers either, after all. But the movie's a bust in myriad ways, especially because almost every scene possesses the oily feel of manipulation and condescension.

Since Diaz is featured prominently on the poster, reducing Collette to an afterthought in much the same way the actual film does, let us begin with her. In this adaptation of Jennifer Weiner's novel about two diametrically opposite sisters who love to hate to love to hate each other, Diaz is cast, of course, as the wild sister, Maggie Feller. We know she is wild because when first we encounter her, she's drunkenly shtupping a guy in the bathroom stall during their 10-year high school reunion. It's a faux pas from which Maggie can't recover, and she's forced to call her upright-citizen sister Rose (Collette) for a ride.

But Diaz is less a wild child than an immature one -- a dunce, in short, who apparently never learned to read, since her mother was unstable, heavily medicated, and, eventually, quite dead. She's also wholly unlikable: Of all the men she could screw, Maggie chooses to bed Rose's boss in Rose's bed, which sends Rose into a tizzy and Maggie off to Florida, to find the grandmother she believed dead.

In Her Shoes is one of those horrid Hollywood movies in which an actress like Collette gains a handful of pounds, wears only a little makeup, and is constantly referred to as frumpy and fat. These aren't characters, but caricatures of the Driven Woman Who Chose to Ditch Her Stressful Day Job to Walk Dogs and Her Feral Younger Sister Who Moves In With an Old Lady and Discovers Responsibility After All. This is a song you've heard a thousand times before, and every note rings false.

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