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.

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