Wed October 5, 2005
In Her Shoes
A social drama of ideas punctuated with humor.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"Every large family has its angel and its demon." Joseph Roux
In Her Shoes is a not a comedy but rather a social drama of ideas punctuated with humor, an exploration of relationships such as sister to sister and grandmother to granddaughter. Along the way it also touches on the challenges of communicating with loved ones and dealing with the trauma of abandonment.
That's not to say star Cameron Diaz playing randy Maggie Feller is difficult to watch or Toni Collette as sister Rose is lost to Diaz's glamour. It's that both actresses are successful at projecting their sisterly love for each other despite the enormous differences in beauty and success. Neither can Maggie compete with the professional success of attorney Rose, nor can Rose compete with the sexual athleticism of Maggie. But they need each other to gain some measure of fitness in the other's realm.
Also challenging is the search for familial unity, leading the girls to a long lost grandma, Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine), at a "retirement home for active seniors." Along the way they must discover the reason for their mother's abandonment, clearly a disorienting event for Maggie, and their father's (Ken Howard) ineffectuality.
Hanson plays the thematic cards close to his vest as Maggie's body and the seniors' antics (think a respectful Seinfeld attitude) dominate the mise en scene. However, after Maggie's dysfunctional sexuality fails to titillate and the seniors evolve into individuals rather than stereotypes, Hanson skillfully shows how difficult the communication game in family can be and how much loved ones can change a life unmoored by self indulgence and parental mistakes.
In Her Shoes in not a great film any more than it is a comedy, but the social issues it raises and the magnetism of Diaz, Collette, and MacLaine make an enjoyable and enriching outing, something like a typical Thanksgiving dinner with an atypical Jewish family.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com