In Her Shoes

October, 2005, Comedy

Is there a reason for employing only Cameron Diaz’s coyly radiant image in the publicity ads for this romantic comedy based on Jennifer Weiner's bestseller? For once, there is truth in advertising; Ms. Diaz, with her pert tushy, mile-long legs and billboard-wide smile is quite simply what this movie is all about. Director Curtis Hanson, (L.A. Confidential, 8 Mile, Wonder Boys) has the good sense to lavish most of his 130 minute running time on his star and her amazing ability to look good when fully dressed, (which she mostly avoids) or in outfits that provide the maximum bodily exposure permissible for a PG-13 rating, thus allowing the actress to amply feed the libidos of the post-pubescent males in the audience. I have no idea whether Ms. Weiner's book, (which records the friction between an older, ugly duckling sister and her slatternly younger sibling) has any substantive content, but thanks to Ms. Diaz, this film version is certainly heavenly to look at. 

Toni Collette, (the Austrialian actress whose roles in more than two dozen films have salvaged some and earned awards for others) plays Rose Feller, a nice, hard-working attorney in Philadelphia driven to spasms of total exasperation by younger sister Maggie (Diaz) who sleeps around, can't hold a job and keeps stealing anything not nailed down in Rose's apartment--including her expensive pumps. When Maggie beds Rose's new boyfriend, the sisters have the kind of melt-down falling-out actresses crave; Maggie responds by drifting down to Miami to look up a long-lost grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) while Rose abandons her legal career to become a dog walker. In the course of finding themselves of course, true love will arrive for one sister and personal awakening for the other, all sandwiched in between the kind of Borsch Belt/senior citizens humor that's the staple of the literary genre from which Shoes has been adapted.

Hanson serves all this up professionally enough; he manages to coax a remarkably restrained performance from MacLaine and a quietly attractive one from Mark Feurstein who plays Rose's beau Sidney. The actor's wholesome, clean-cut good looks make him the epitome of the "nice Jewish boy" and his recitation of passages from a bodice-ripper on one of his early dates with Rose simultaneously sends up that genre while demonstrating just how erotically effective it can be.  But the director shrewdly lavishes most of his camera's attention on the luminous Diaz, surveying her lithe body and infectious grin to win the hearts, (male) and minds, (female) of his audience.   

In the end of course, mutual accommodations--if not understandings--have been established, true love has both blossomed and matured, (in multiple generations) and the overarching value of the family has been reaffirmed. Tie that all together with a nicely recited piece of e.e. Cumming's poetry and the exposure of Ms. Diaz's breasts just this a bit beyond proper decorum and you have the makings of a sure box office winner.

This one's like Chinese food; fun going down but you won’t remember much a couple of hours later. 

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