your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

In the Land of Women (review)

In the Heads of Men

I love men, I really do, but dammit, if there’s one thing they’re really good at, it’s taking up more room than is rightfully theirs. Like how there’s always some jerk hogging three seats on the subway by spreading his legs so wide that no one can sit next to him (not that you’d want to, but still). Or like how there’s always some dweeb who thinks he’s a sensitive artist for making a movie all about women and how he really gets them when he rather hilariously doesn’t even realize that his movie is really all about himself.

It might be cute if it weren’t so obnoxious.
And oh, Jonathan Kasdan thinks he’s cute, too, in more ways than one. All the women in his imaginary mythical “land of women” — I keep expecting, I dunno, girl-leprechauns in pink dresses or something — are madly in love with him, of course. Well, not with him, you see, but with Carter Webb, his only-in-a-movie kind of lovelorn but sensitive and artistic alter ego — actually, he’s lovelorn because he’s sensitive and artistic; it’s what makes all the girls from 8 to 88 love him, and then break his heart. He’s just too good for them, you see. His girlfriend, a hot model/actress, tells him she “needs space” as the movie opens, though later, after he has decamped home from Los Angeles to ritzy suburban Michigan to regroup and discover the land of women, she takes up with that cad Colin Farrell, or so rumor has it. See, if only Carter (Adam Brody: Thank You for Smoking, Mr. & Mrs. Smith) could be a cad instead of a nice guy, goes the unstated but predictable male lament, the hot model/actress — the only woman he has ever loved, curse her and curse his broken tender little heart! — she’d still be his.

But this only scrapes the surface of the tedious and unsurprising narcissism that is the only halfway genuinely emotional thing propping up this stilted and artificial flick. Kasdan is an actor with such credits to his name as “Gawky-Looking Kid” in an episode of Dawson’s Creek, a writing credit on a single episode of Freaks and Geeks, and — aha! — he’s the son of screenwriter, producer, and director Lawrence Kasdan, and you know goddamn well that’s the only reason he got a greenlight. Kasdan the Younger is the kind of writer who concocts scenarios in which Meg Ryan and Her Artfully Messy Hair, as his across-the-street neighbor in Michigan, drops by to bring him a plate of Fig Newtons she removed from the package, plopped on a plate, wrapped in plastic, presents to him as homemade, and then readily admits they’re Fig Newtons, because Kasdan thinks its cutesy and, you know, indie-funky, when it’s just stupid and annoying and something only a character in a calculatedly “offbeat” movie would do. Meg Ryan and Her Artfully Messy Hair (Against the Ropes, In the Cut) are also prone to saying things like “I’m a last-word freak” — who talks like that? But it’s all in aid of demonstrating how madly and completely besotted she is with Kasdan– I mean Carter five minutes after they meet.

But it’s not all cute, no. Remember, Kasdan– I mean Carter is a sensitive and artistic young man. So he can cure all that ails all these women in the land of women, who have simply been lost — lost, I tell you! — until he came along. He emotionally rescues his grandma (Olympia Dukakis: The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines, The Great New Wonderful), with whom he came to live: she’s a crazy old senile bat, but an adorable one, that kind that exists only movies written by young men who’ve never had to deal with actual senile old people. He emotionally rescues Lucy (Kristen Stewart: Undertow, Catch That Kid), the 16-year-old daughter of Meg Ryan and Her Artfully Messy Hair; Lucy falls in love with Kasdan– I mean Carter, too, of course, but only on the way to becoming a Strong and Confident Young Woman. Thank god Kasdan cut the scene in which he sensitively explains to Lucy’s little sister, 10ish or so Paige (Makenzie Vega: Sin City, Saw), that now she’s a woman, and will have to buy tampons every month.

And he emotionally rescues Meg Ryan and Her Artfully Messy Hair, too: she had been spending her days looking distressed and depressed over the granite countertops and Sub-Zero appliances of her sterile Pottery Barn house, and listening, perhaps, to the sad tinkly piano music on the soundtrack while slugging back Nyquil in her beautiful but cold neutral-gray bathroom. But now it’s okay, because she was had a sad scene with Carter in the rain that freed her — freed her, I tell you! — to be the woman she was always afraid of being. Or something.

I want young men to figure out the world, I really do. But I wish they wouldn’t all keep “figuring” that it can’t go on without them.

(Technorati tags: , , )

MPAA: rated PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
  • Nollie

    Maryanne you are an asswhole.All you look at is someones hair!

  • Michelle

    Maryanne…you rock!
    Whole heartedly agree.
    I read this as a script 2 years ago. Ugh.

  • Joe

    Did Nollie really just spell asshole like that? That’s crazy. It really detracts from the validity of your point if you A. use insults and B. spell said insults entirely wrong. I mean, what a schithead (kidding).

  • MBI

    That thing about how nice women are only attracted to assholes is one of the accepted truisms that I’ve never ever seen in practice. I have noticed, however, that the kind of guys who complain about that sort of thing are also pretty much assholes, just smaller and weaker and less sexy.

  • MaryAnn

    Thank you, MBI. My observations are that the guys who complain that they’re too “nice” misunderstand the differences between being an actual nice guy and being a dull, wishy-washy, unconfident milquetoast.

    Also: Nollie is yet another example of the shocking lack of people in our culture who can read above a 5th grade level.

  • Paula

    Oye! What a movie.
    I whole-heartedly agree with just about everything you said, and then some. The characters were unbelievable and there was little to no romance going on between any of them that drew me into the movie, and the whole film itself felt herky-jerky. The ending was an over all letdown, and some of the dialogue was beyond lame.
    My friend and I both agreed that if we editted the script and reworked some of the plot, we could come up with a better movie. We decided to do just that, once we could get our hands on the script.

    Generally, you’ve got this movie down-pat and well covered. ;]

  • MBI

    I’d take it further than that, honestly. I think a guy can be a dull milquetoast and still be a nice guy. But a genuinely nice guy can make it through a normal cycle of self-pity without bitching, “It’s ’cause girls only like ASSHOLES.” Get over it, you resentful little shit.

  • Drave

    Yeah, I’ve noticed that most of the people who think of themselves as “nice guys” are simply human doormats with an over-blown sense of entitlement.

  • Allie

    All of you- SHUTUP.

    Adam brody is a fantastic person. So suck up your pride and just except that there are sweet guys left in hollywood. Oh and Drave (your parents must not have loved you), quit trying to read so much into this. Using big words trying to make your statement sound correct. Adam Brody is a genuine sweet, witty guy. You people are so caught up in yourselves and this f-ed up society to accept a guy like him.

    BTW- I loved the movie. Suckers.

  • MaryAnn

    Oh, Allie, you’ll have to do a lot better than that. Do you honestly think that the actor Adam Brody and the character he plays in this film are one and the same, or that criticism of the character is the same as criticism of the actor who plays him?

    And please, explain in what way we are “suckers.” Do you imagine that simply because you know Adam Brody and have first-person knowledge that he is a “sweet, witty guy” somehow negates criticism of the film in which he appears? (No one here says one negative word about Brody.)

    Wait: You do know Brody, don’t you? You’re not just speaking as a fan, are you, that he’s a “fantastic person”?

  • Gloria

    “Entitlement” is a big word?

  • linda

    FINALLY! an honest and accurate review of this movie. The only good that came out of watching this thing was that i couldnt wait to point out the 101 flaws. Including everything you mentioned ( and then some) the most annoying part is that kasdan had to refer to MI four times. Dude…we get it you’re in michigan. ((and i live in and love michigan!)) You can tell where every single piece of dialogue was intentional. Who runs across the street to tell some stranger you dont know “dont tell my mom i smoke”. or what person just meets a visitor,goes on a walk and tells them they’re husband is cheating on them. And Carter didnt say he never SAW a football field. he said his progressive high school didnt have a football team. so cute lucy doesnt need to drive him to a football field. ANNOYING!

  • I thought it was sort of a nothing movie, but I did not form a definite opinion because I kept getting distracted by all the gasps from girly-kids every time the OC guy kissed somebody. Sheesh. My daughter had to point out the reason the theatre was filled to capacity with these chatty, tittering doodle-heads, because I just didn’t get why they were at that kind of movie.

  • I thought the best part was Dukakis, the grandmother. The character wasn’t stupendous, but the actress was always the scene stealer. The little sister wasn’t bad either.

  • MaryAnn

    FINALLY! an honest and accurate review of this movie.

    I agree with your assessment of the movie, April, but it’s worth remembering that other reviews that you may have read that were positive were more than likely honest and “accurate” too, at least as “accurate” an an opinion can be.

    Sherry: Most of the performances in the film were fine (with the exception of Meg Ryan, who continues to be a nightmare in anything other than light comedy). The problems with the film are not the fault of the cast but of the filmmaker.

  • Jesse

    This guy should read Y: The Last Man.

    Y is a sci/fi story about, naturally, the last male on the planet. A character actually mentions, at one point, the irony that in a world where all but one person on planet Earth are women, a man gets to be the protagonist. But the big deals in Y aren’t really that all the men died, but more that half the population died, and one of the larger themes is that the last man questions his value in a world where, 4 years into manlessness, women have managed to get the world running without him. Anyway, it’s really good, and it deals with the lines between men and women without getting pretentious or stupid.

    Anyway, the trope of women liking dicks and eventually letting nice guys get away is one of those stereotypes that people will see once or twice in their lives and then adapt to apply to everyone in the whole world. Yes, some women will pick jerks over nice guys, but some men will pick shameless bitches over nice girls.

    It’s one of the ways that men at large villify women and validate their own idiocy. “Women are naturally drawn to overly masculine behaviour” – which, conveniently, usually translates to being an asshole – “so I shouldn’t be sensitive or nice, like they CLAIM to be looking for.” And then, of course, it’s fueled heartily with tripe like this.

  • Yes, this is a very annoying movie. The protagonist couldn’t just lose his girlfriend to anyone; he had to lose her to a major movie star. He couldn’t just kiss one of the main characters; the character in question has to kiss him first. He couldn’t just write a cute children’s story for his grandma; no, he had to make it a not-so-thinly-veiled allegory about himself, which, no doubt, was supposed to be funny.

    One could not but help but be reminded of Zach Braff’s male buddies in “The Last Kiss.” They, too, had obvious issues with women, but at least they didn’t think they were doing the women in their life a favor with their very existence.

  • Pedro

    Oh my god MBI you are SO wrong! i know a LOT of nice (looking or acting) women attracted to the biggest jerk-offs – and i meanguys who a. look sleazy and b. mistreat their suppoised «girlfirends».

    not all of us non-jerks are milquetoasts. you women should give some of us a try once in a while. at least we don’t friggin’ spank you. and we’ll never ignore you at parties.

  • amanohyo

    Pedro, if you only know that these women are nice looking OR nice acting, then you might not really know them that well (at least not well enough to know if they actually ARE nice, whatever that means). Also I think you grossly underestimate the fears of most women. Spanking and a lack of small talk at parties are far down the average woman’s list of fears (underneath physical abuse, emotional abuse, and rape).

    Don’t worry, I know that if you’re shy it can seem as though all the best looking or acting women only go for the “jerks,” (at least they look or act like jerks) but being attracted to someone involves a lot of different factors for women, and every woman weighs those factors differently, or at least they eventually do as the relationship develops.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I feel your pain because I once felt as you do, but you should be careful about generalizing about all women when you are armed only with sketchy anecdotal evidence about people you may not know that well. Women aren’t mindless moths drawn irresistibly to one particular kind of man (well… except for MaryAnne and time traveling doctors), when they are attracted to someone, they usually have a good reason… I mean you wouldn’t intentionally enter into an unhealthy relationship (not without a good reason), so why would you expect a woman to?

    If you continue to be a proactive non-jerk with an open mind, eventually, a nice looking or acting woman will rationalize her way into your life (it’s a lot more romantic than it sounds).

  • MaryAnn

    Women aren’t mindless moths drawn irresistibly to one particular kind of man (well… except for MaryAnne and time traveling doctors)

    Actually, there’s a good analogy to be made here. Many women, like me, are attracted to confidence and strength of personality in a man. (Like the Doctor, who is nothing if not confident and blessed with an abundance of personality.) Unfortunately, some women sometimes see confidence and personality in what is actually an aggressive manifestation of precisely the opposite: a lack of confidence and personality… that is, in being a loud, obnoxious jerk.

    It sucks that this is true, and it sucks that some people — male and female alike — try to disguise what they almost certain unconsciously perceive as their own weaknesses as overt parodies of strengths. But this is why finding the right person to spend your life with can be so hard…

  • Pedro

    thank you girls, for your understanding.

    true, there aren’t many women i know *that* well, and the most i can vouch for are a couple of high-school crushes (i’m 22 next month, and i just finished college). still, i know a few friends of mine who are dating total jerks.

    i realize the concerns i stated are not high in the priority list. but what about cheating? i know guys who brag about «my GF’s out of town, but i already talked to my ex to ‘fill in the blank’…» and the guy who said this isn’t even a jerk! everyone knows jerks use their girlfriends as trophy wives, as they keep backstabbing them.

    meanwhile, women mourn the «lack of decent men out there», all the while ignoring guys like me just because we’re a little insecure and…well, not exactly Brad Pitt (what they fail to realise is, our insecurity stems from THEIR view of us as just some ugly, ineligible *thing*).

    i mean, come on! i pull up seats for girls at bars; i make small talk; i’m never disrespectful unless the person is one of my close friends..and then along comes some muscle-bound, jock-itch jerk, makes a couple of sex comments, and the girls are all over him!? what the Frell…!? (sorry, MaryAnn, for using your expression ;) )

    this is why reading some comments on this review depressed me; i KNOW the cliché is real. it may be because i’m young, and subsequently my friends are too, but it’s still a bitch. i hope as they grow older, women skew this cliché and start focusing on what REALLY matters in a guy. and no, it’s not whether he’s George Clooney.

    (ps: i admit to sometimes being shallow and superficial in my evaluation of women. i’m mending my ways, though. maybe you girls should do the same.)

  • MaryAnn

    i know guys who brag about «my GF’s out of town, but i already talked to my ex to ‘fill in the blank’…» and the guy who said this isn’t even a jerk!

    Yes, he is.

  • anya

    To Pedro who said “(ps: i admit to sometimes being shallow and superficial in my evaluation of women. i’m mending my ways, though. maybe you girls should do the same.)”

    Most of my guy friends who complain girl’s wont give them the time of day ARE practicing shallowness by looking for ONLY hot women. Mind you, most of us flock towards the ‘pretty’ people and don’t care to look for beautiful minds but it’s a bit hyprocitical to say “nobody loves me ’cause I’m not hot but I will only date hot babes or dudes.”

    As you age you eventually discover (shock!) that as corny as it sounds a beautiful mind and a nice personality count more than a hot body. You also stop being such a self-centered narcissit (everything is about me!) and realize the earth doesn’t spin around you.

    Yes, mea culpa in that department. There was a time when I thought everybody was probably judging me and (gasp!) all men in the universe were comparing me to Angelina Jolie and oh my god … one day you wake up and you realize thank God I’m not 20 anymore, feel so much happier about myself, and don’t spend time hating the world because: a)i’m not hot enough b) nobody loves me.

    The road to happiness, I’ll tell you, is to stop worrying so much about the mating game, about yourself and how you appear to others, and start simply living.

    And yeah, this movie was not very good and seemed to be written by a very young, narcissitic man who thinks he is this big gift to women.

  • Pedro

    “…seemed to be written by a very young, narcissitic man [b]who thinks he is this big gift to women.[/b]”

    Anya, most of the jerks i know have EXACTLY this kind of attitude. And they get all the girls. Go figure.

  • Paul

    Well, lots of movies are made or starred in by different sorts of guys who think they are god’s gift to women, such as Richard Gere. I think Julia Roberts plays women who are supposed to be the Goddess’ gift to men. For the record, I rarely like any of these movies.

    As for the nice guy doesn’t get the girl or not, well, I’m a basically nice guy who gets nervous flirting with girls. When I asked a girl out, I had a 99-100 chance of being shot down and even if she said yes I had a 50% chance of being stood up.

    When a woman watched me in a TKD class sparring with the other black belts, my success rate went from 1 in a 100 to 3 out of 4. Same personality, mind you, just a different way of seeing me.

    Actually, those statistics apply to American women. I’ve lived in China for three years. The women here like it that I’m a gentleman, I hang out with them all the time, and they show up when they say they will. Sometimes I go out to dinner with 2 or 3 of them at a time. Again, I’m the same guy, but with women being nice to me instead of looking at me like I’m bothering them when I say hi (or nihao, as the case may be).

    A lot of these gender wars are not genetic requirements, they are cultural in nature. Are there any Europeans out there who wish to comment?

  • MaryAnn

    Ah, here we go: the “nice guy” who complains that women don’t like “nice guys.”

    Maybe you *are* bothering women when you say hello, and that’s why they give you the cold shoulder. We are not automatically required to encourage all attention shown to us, and in fact, unless we invite that attention, chances are excellent that we’re not particularly interested in talking to any random stranger who tries to strike up a conversation.

    On the other hand, American women are not raised in a culture, like Asian women are, to think of men as demigods who must be stroked and coddled and treated with deference all the time. But if you feel better about yourself with women falling indiscriminately all over you constantly, good for you. I bet if you asked those Chinese women, though, why they like you, you’ll find that it’s not about you as a person but about their hopes of snagging a rich American.

Pin It on Pinterest