In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes


Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

There's an old saying - "When you don't like someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away, and you'll have their shoes."

I dislike the term 'chick flick'. It's an unpleasant phrase used to demean films about female power and strong characterisation. In Her Shoes is one such film, and it's really rather brilliant in the way it insidiously grabs you, almost without you having noticed. The manner in which it breaks free from what may initially be a rather weak situation comedy into a surprisingly empathetic character drama is entirely refreshing.

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Maggie Feller (a career-best Cameron Diaz) is a school drop-out - an irresponsible 30-year-old child with a body that turns heads at 200 yards - living from moment to moment on the mercy of others. Rose (Toni Collette, sporting a dead-on Philadelphia accent) is a workaholic lawyer, about 15 to 20lb overweight and dressing as plain as plain-Jane. These are the stereotypical characters who grow claws and eventually wings as they explode and rejoin with the help of their family.

We initially meet Maggie feet first in a pair of magnificent black stilettoes, about to have some nonchalant sex. A split-second later, she's passed out on the toilet stall having projectile vomited and completely turned off her potential high-school reunion suitor. Soon afterwards she's kicked out of her parental home.

Rose has little time for Maggie's infantile shenanigans, but offers her a room and urges her to take a job and keep it for more than three months. After a particularly rough night, Maggie opens the fridge to find the classified listing in a paper section facing her, with red ink roping appropriate jobs. Her slovenly approach to adult responsibilities and Rose's acidic tongue cause events to rise to a head. And Maggie further exasperates the situation by crudely flirting and sleeping with Rose's potential boyfriend. "Get out of my life!" Rose howls in rage and despair.

Their no-nonsense grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacLaine), lives in a retirement community and has been kept a secret by the sisters' stepmother and father. Maggie, after having slung her hook, throws herself on the mercy of this complete stranger.

Enough of my tedious exposition/rambling. The real joy of In Her Shoes is the way in which all three women eventually bind and use each other's strengths to heal their deep emotional wounds. Ella finds the last remaining family she has and embraces her role as grandmother, brokering a deal with Maggie while pushing her to "please grow up". The movie's most heartening scenes involve Maggie finding a job and getting to know the older residents in the community, especially the blind Professor. He gently helps her to find the purpose, pleasure and technique of reading. (Early on in the movie, Maggie tries to get a MTV presenter's job - she looks like a million bucks, but can't read the teleprompter quickly enough.) It's rare the kind of 'chick-flick' that gets a sincere emotional payoff from poetry comprehension and cross-cutting alone.

For reasons best explained in the movie, Rose quits her job and starts getting some real fun out of life. She even finds love in the shape of fellow lawyer and stunningly eloquent gourmet Simon (Mark Feuerstein). "You will want to eat with me for the rest of your life!", he smoothly enunciates. After that sushi order, I couldn't wait to get out of the cinema and eat - but the movie was too compelling.

In Her Shoes is freely adapted from the novel by Jennifer Weiner, the screenplay an elegant framework for the struggles and unwavering bond between the siblings. Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) sensitively and implicitly directs this simple, touching and all-too-human story. He uses the 2.35:1 widescreen frame rather beautifully - carefully storyboarded - grabbing the eye to invisibly enhance the drama. Indeed, his most recent films, Wonder Boys and 8 Mile, are about people transformed by their expressive powers. This family is reunited through compelling emotional expression in one of the year's best and most underrated films.

Reviewed on: 23 Dec 2006
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Sex, shopping and eating. What more could you ask for? Jimmy Choo stilettos?
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Read more In Her Shoes reviews:

Sarah Artt ****

Director: Curtis Hanson

Writer: Susannah Grant, based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley Maclaine, Candice Azzara, Mark Feuerstein, Dorothy Kelly, Jerry Adler

Year: 2005

Runtime: 130 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US


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