Friday, September 12, 2008

Chick flick or squandered opportunity?

"The Women," a painful remake of a 1939 George Cukor-directed movie, goes along way toward giving chick flicks a bad name. Updated for trendy 21st century consumption, "The Women" stars Meg Ryan, as a wife whose husband cheats on her, and Annette Bening, as the obligatory best friend. Ryan's Mary Haines is on the verge of losing her husband to a sexy bombshell who works at a department store (Eva Mendes). Will she? Do we care? To round out the all-female cast, Debra Messing signs on as a housewife with kids, and Jada Pinkett Smith turns up as a lesbian columnist. A few decent one-liners zing through the tepid air, but the best performances come from actresses on the movie's fringe: Bette Midler (in a cameo as an agent); Candice Bergen (as Mary's mother) and Cloris Leachman (as a housekeeper who wants to keep her distance from Mary, her employer). The novelty of an all-female cast may engage some viewers, but it's difficult to see "The Women" as anything more than a lost opportunity. A mediocre script and lackluster direction from Diane English make you want to run to the nearest video store and rent the original, which starred Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford. You could then go home and do a compare-and-contrast number or you could skip both movies and read a good book.

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