Film Review – In Her Shoes

Dolcis On Saturday

(originally published 15/11/05 on Entertainmentwise.com)

The publicity for In Her Shoes has attempted to deny that it’s a chick flick. This is perhaps understandable, not only because it’s an unavoidably sexist and unforgivably Variety-moronic term, but also because the stock of such sub-genres has recently hit rock bottom. This is thanks to the need by the ever-paranoid backers for films to make sure they hit at last some kind of demographic. Never mind there seems to be a genre of safe, friendly films that could be called ‘starring Lindsey Lohan’. The last chick flick I saw, The Perfect Man, was as unspeakably awful as it was avowedly targeted at depressed teenage girls and no-one else.

In Her Shoes is directed by Curtis Hanson and, as a result, is much better than any genre tag it could acquire, although Hanson’s desire to avoid similar pigeonholing is perhaps going too far the other way. After LA Confidential, Wonder Boys and 8 Mile, it might be best for him to find a genre he’s comfortable with and stick to it, otherwise his next film may well be a remake of Will Hay’s Oh Mr Porter set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro.

In Her Shoes may claim not to be a chick flick but the clue is in the title. If there’s one thing in this world designed to get women’s interests it’s shoes, and they tend to have the inverse effect on men – as the sight of all those miserable looking blokes trailing after their enraptured significant others in Dolcis on a Saturday will testify.

There’s lots of shoes on view here. A sign that the director is male could be that they also seem to be of the high-heeled variety. Since a lot of these are worn by Cameron Diaz (along with very little else) he can be forgiven for at least trying to get some men interested. Diaz plays the disreputable sister of straight-laced lawyer Toni Collette; pushing thirty but more than used to phoning her sister in the middle of the night to pick her up after a drunken binge-cum-one night stand.

Naturally, Collette is not best pleased. When Diaz is kicked out of the family home where she’s been mooching off her parents and comes to deliver similar amounts of mooch to her sister, Collette looks ready to murder her. Excellent! Some familial butchery. But this is all a lot more adult than that, so to speak. A significant moment comes when Diaz discovers Collette’s secret collection of dressy (and very high) heels and tries them on whilst eating a sloppy mixture of ice cream and milk. The cameragets very focused on the moment when she spills some on an especially expensive-looking pair.

This none-too subtle metaphor of shoes runs both ways, as Diaz chastises Collette for her secret collection. “Shoes like this should not be locked up in a closet! You should be living a life of scandal. You should be getting screwed in an alley behind a club by a billionaire while his wife waits in the car and he told her he just forgot his wallet!”

“Please tell me you just made that up,” dryly answers Collette, oblivious to the analogy.

Things come to a head when Diaz greets Collette’s new boyfriend wearing nothing but a T shirt and a nifty pair of furry boots. Pretty soon the boots are wrapped around his back and are no doubt the first thing Collette notices when she discovers them at it.

Diaz gets kicked out – not literally as Hanson has at least some subtlety – and takes her mooch to live with her recently discovered Grandmother Shirley MacLaine, in a retirement home in Florida. This is where most retirement homes in America are located, despite the hurricanes. MacLaine plays the same role she’s been playing very effectively for the last twenty years (Hanson take note), as a tough old bird with a heart of gold. She’s one of the few Hollywood ladies of a certain age who hasn’t been disfigured by plastic surgery, but then she has the wisdom of all her previous lives.

Realising that she may have gone a bit too far, Diaz decides to knuckle down to some responsibility – which includes getting a job in a nursing home and finally learning to read – whilst Collette discovers her own rebel within and quits the law in order to walk dogs for a living. She’s not much of a rebel you have to admit, particularly when she gets all Elizabeth Bennett and gets engaged to a man she previously thought very little of. He knows a few good restaurants, apparently; if he’d had the same knowledge of shoe shops she would have begged him to marry her there and then.

From then on it all gets a bit predictable. But then Hanson has done his best to present these people as real, living human beings rather than the obvious Hollywood stereotypes, and they tend to be a bit easy to forecast. What remains is the fact that Diaz and Collette seem to be retreading their own films: Diaz in Florida surrounded by old people just like in Something About Mary; Collette as an unlikely bride just as in Muriel’s Wedding. I’m sure the effect was unintentional.

This is an adult film for the female half of the population, which is a pretty wide demographic really. And Collette’s shoes at the wedding are lovely.

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About klausjoynson
I'm a writer, editor, musician, DJ and cartoonist. Contact me at: klausjoynson(at)gmail.com or follow me on Twitter: @KlausJoynson

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