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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 17.14%
Just Average54.29%
Pretty Crappy: 8.57%
Sucks: 20%

4 reviews, 11 user ratings

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In the Land of Women
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Zach Braff--What Foul Hell Have You Wrought?"
1 stars

I have probably seen worse films than “In The Land of Women” but I can’t recall the last one that filled me with the kind of utter loathing and contempt that this one did. Wait–actually I can. That would be last fall’s “The Last Kiss” and I suppose that this is no mere coincidence since they are both virtually the same film. Like that earlier film, it recounts the misadventures of a whiny, self-absorbed man-boy who, on the verge of leaving his twenties behind for good, glibly pisses and moans about how no one understands the exquisite pain of being a whiny, self-absorbed man-boy while gorgeous women unaccountably fling themselves at him and an ever-present soundtrack underlines every moment of his hipster angst. I suspect that “In the Land of Women” was launched into production for the same reason as “The Last Kiss”–producers saw the surprisingly hefty box-office grosses achieved by “Garden State” a couple of years ago and decided to grab a slice of that particular ennui-stuffed pie–but the end result, like “The Last Kiss,” is a hollow, inauthentic and excruciating bit of navel-gazing that seems to exist only to suggest to audiences just how painful “Garden State” might have been without the invaluable presence of Natalie Portman to save it from complete disposability.

Adam Brody, best-known as the hyper-articulate geek on the late, once-great “The O.C.,” stars as Carter Webb, a screenwriter for what appears to be those cheesy sexploitation shows that appear on Cinemax in the wee hours who, like so many writers of late-night erotica, is somehow dating the gorgeous and famous model-actress Sofia Bunuel (Elena Anaya). As the story opens, Sofia has apparently just realized that she can do much better than the Gen-Y Zalman King and gently but firmly kicks Carter to the curb so that she can do other things (such as Colin Farrell). Devastated–well, maybe “vaguely mopey” is more like it–Carter decides that he needs to clear his head and when he learns that his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) is slipping further into the throes of dementia, he impulsively decides to leave L.A. for the well-trimmed suburbs of Michigan so that he can help take care of her for a while.<

These elements alone would presumably be enough to send most right-minded moviegoers fleeing to the lobby in order to find the theater showing “Hot Fuzz” or “Death Proof” but unfortunately, “In the Land of Women” has barely gotten started yet. Instead of taking care of his grandmother, Carter finds himself becoming involved in the lives of the female members of the family living across the street, the Hardwickes. He first meets Sarah (Meg Ryan) and they begin taking long walks in which he fully demonstrates the depths of his self-absorbed, pseudo-glib personality. Inexplicably, Sarah finds him a charming delight and decides that it would be a swell idea for sullen 16-year-old daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart) out on a date. Even more inexplicably, Lucy agrees–much to the chagrin of the nerdy pal (Dustin Miligan) who is not-so-secretly secretly in love with her–and Mom even allows here to bring younger sister Paige (Makenzie Vega), one of those precocious movie kids who likes to talk about how precocious she is, along for the ride. Each of the Mackenzie women has a problem or two of their own–Sarah is in the early stages of treatment for breast cancer, Lucy resents her mom for one reason or another and Paige constantly flirts with the possibility of someone strangling her with each of her cutesy comments–but luckily for Carter, their trials (not to mention the fact that each sort of falls for him in their own different ways) are just the thing he needs to pull him out of his own ennui.

At the risk of sounding heartless and cruel, you know you are in trouble when the movie that you are watching drags in a subplot involving Meg Ryan bravely facing breast cancer in a ham-fisted attempt to elicit audience sympathy and you know that you are in real trouble when the subplot involving Meg Ryan bravely facing breast cancer is arguably the least insufferable element on display. For starters, there is the inescapable fact that there is not one solitary character on display that any right-thinking person would want to stand in line behind while getting coffee, let alone watch on the screen for 97 minutes. Carter is a twerp from start to finish and as he endlessly natters on and on about nothing at all, you desperately try and fail to see what it is about him that anyone else could find even remotely intriguing. (For most of the running time, the vibes he gives off are less of a person at an emotional crossroads and more like a person in the throes of an especially virulent case of mono.) Lucy is a unpleasant bore whose resentment towards her mother seems to be driven more by the requirements of the screenplay than anything else. The grandmother (remember her?) is the kind of elderly person with the sort of dementia generally found only within the confines of bad movies or television–the kind that allows the victim to act in a wackily confused manner (such as opening the door without clothes) when a laugh is needed and to speak in a completely lucid manner when a more touchingly sentimental moment is required. The only character that is even remotely interesting is Sarah and the film winds up even screwing that up by keeping her off the screen for far too long in the second half.

“In the Land of Women” marks the writing and directing debut of Jonathan Kasdan and if that last name sounds familiar, it is because his father is Lawrence Kasdan, the man behind such wonderful films as “Body Heat,” “Silverado,” “Grand Canyon” and the terribly underrated “Mumford.” You may be thinking that my objections to this film stem from the fact that it was made by someone whose journey to make a first film was presumably made easier by an influential parent (Kasdan senior served as an executive producer and both Meg Ryan and co-editor Carol Littleton have worked with him in the past) but this is not the case–in fact, one of my favorite debut films of the last ten years, the quirky 1998 mystery “Zero Effect,” was written and directed by Jake Kasdan, Lawrence’s son and Jonathan’s brother. However, that film worked because it told an engrossing story with a lot of wit and a distinct personal style–you got the sense that he would have figured out a way to get it made even without the doors opened by his name.

Here, you get the sense that Kasdan only wanted to make a movie because everyone else in his family was doing it and when he was finally granted the chance, he didn’t actually have anything to say and instead chose to slap together the kind of screenplay more suitable for a Lifetime Original Movie and even they probably would have rejected it. Although it starts in an agreeably messy fashion that doesn’t immediately announce its intentions, the screenplay quickly descends into familiar territory without offering anything new to the mix and is often quite sloppy and inconsistent. (At one point, Carter makes a John Hughes reference to Lucy who, not unsurprisingly, responds with the query “Who’s John Hughes?”–a line that, while momentarily amusing, makes no sense in context since a.) Lucy makes an arcane “Breakfast Club” reference not five minutes later and b.) her collection of vintage 80's-era rock T-shirts suggests that she has a more-than-adequate working knowledge of popular culture of that day.) As for the dialogue, it is all glib and hyper-articulate in that way that might look good on paper but which sounds utterly inauthentic when emerging from the mouths of actual human beings. Hell, this is a film that rings so utterly false through and through that even when we are treated to the inevitable moment of Meg Ryan throwing up in her perfectly appointed kitchen after a round of chemotherapy, it feels anything but authentic. (In fact, the little blob of barf that we see looks as if it has been designed to blend right in with the surroundings.) And when all else fails (which is often), Kasdan falls back on the last refuge of the lazy filmmaker by throwing in a wall-to-wall soundtrack with songs meant to underline the emotions that he failed to inspired with his own material. (Although I am an enormous fan of Bruce Springsteen, I would hope that the dopey use of “Iceman” here, right on the heels of the equally ham-fisted deployment of “Drive All Night,” will inspire him to go back to his original position of never loaning his songs out to any filmmaker not named John Sayles.)

After the screening of “In the Land of Women,” I was killing time before the next screening by grumbling about its utter uselessness with a couple of colleagues until one pointed out that I had a deep-seated prejudice against movies involving the personal problems of well-to-do white suburbanites. Of course, I disagreed but when I could only come up with “Little Children” as a rebuttal (though I still feel I should get a little credit for “Marie Antoinette” on the grounds that Versailles is essentially a suburb of Paris), I had to grudgingly concede that he might have had a point after all. That said, don’t let my past prejudices color your reaction to this review in any way–“In the Land of Women” really and truly is as insufferably bad as I have made it sound–even purveyors of late-night cable smut will be outraged to see their profession besmirched by its presence here. My recommendation is that you should take the money that you planned on seeing this film with and either invest it in the upcoming DVD of “Little Children” or go to see something a little more pleasant and emotionally believable–“Vacancy,” for example–and let this one vanish from view as quickly and completely as it deserves to disappear.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15620&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/20/07 02:22:14
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User Comments

7/14/10 MJ Very Cliche, but had some funny points too. Excellent for a girls night in. 3 stars
12/31/08 Peter North I would bang Lucy right where she needs it.... 2 stars
10/19/08 Jana The acting was inarguably superb, despite the screenplay's flaws. 4 stars
7/21/08 I it's not what i expected. i wanted carter to be with lucy. 4 stars
6/01/08 Adam Conshor You're way off. Cliches abound, but this is more-or-less literate. 4 stars
7/29/07 me they wernt real woman they were pretending! 4 stars
7/02/07 William Goss Woefully unsatisfying, with not a single scene that sticks. Stewart, Stewart, Stewart... 2 stars
5/02/07 AC BOWEN Not what's expected from previews but still satisfying. Calm chick flick 4 stars
5/01/07 Rosalin Pretty Good after reading the information 4 stars
4/29/07 Jim Clayton Kasdan is not his daddy. He shows little promise. 2 stars
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  20-Apr-2007 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2007



Directed by
  Jonathan Kasdan

Written by
  Jonathan Kasdan

  Adam Brody
  Kristen Stewart
  Makenzie Vega
  Clark Gregg
  Elena Anaya
  Meg Ryan

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