Women loses momentum after strong beginning
April 23, 2007 —
In the Land of Women is a touching but inconsistent drama peppered with wisely-placed comedic moments. Calling it a romantic comedy is a disservice to what it attempts to do, yet it fails to rise above the average film.
Adam Brody of The O.C. stars as Carter, a Los Angeles-based writer of softcore pornography who is dumped by his celebrity girlfriend Sophia in an extremely effective opening sequence. After arriving back home and talking to his mom, he learns that his grandmother who lives in Michigan claims (unconvincingly, it appears) to be near death.
Feeling that a vacation could be what he needs to get over his relationship as well as inspire him to finally start the story about his high school he had always wanted to write, Carter heads off to Michigan to be with his grandmother.
At this point the movie introduces the audience to Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) and her daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), as she is revealing to her daughter that she may have breast cancer. After Carter arrives, we of course discover that the Hardwickes live across the street from his grandmother Phyllis.
I liked these opening scenes better than many in the rest of the movie. They have an everyday quality to them that lends credibility and realism to the characters and the setting.
The movie really picks up, and perhaps even peaks, shortly after Carter and Sarah strike a friendship. He accompanies her on her daily walks, and they confide in each other. She reveals her marriage problems to him, but doesn't divulge that she has cancer. The way this relationship develops feels natural and real, and was my favorite part of the movie.
Interestingly, Carter also befriends Lucy, and it is at this point his problem in this situation becomes more apparent. Carter is in his mid-twenties, and lives across the street from two interesting women, but one is too young and the other too old (not to mention married) for him to have a realistic relationship with.
It isn't just the romantic aspect of things that this movie tries to get at, though. Carter gives both Lucy and Sarah perspective, and they do the same for him. Necessarily, things get confusing at times for the characters, and it's nice to see something that isn't painted in concrete black and white.
I also enjoyed the scene in which Carter accompanies Lucy to a party. There are some comedic and dramatic moments that allow the movie to show its versatility. Later on, though, In the Land of Women gets bogged down in subplots. I liked the potential of this movie, but by the conclusion I was pretty weary of it. It feels longer than it is, and when a movie under two hours long drags, something is wrong.
In the Land of Women also suffers from the unfortunate yet common movie disease of the unrealistically intelligent child. Lucy's younger sister, Paige (Makenzie Vega) is another one of those child genius roles that should have died out with the first Home Alone.
No, it isn't funny or cute that Paige eloquently dictates where Lucy and Carter go and what they do on their night out. We've seen this before. It's a one-trick pony that I would have thought the makers of what is otherwise a down-to-earth and realistic movie would have avoided.
I enjoyed much of In the Land of Women, but it didn't leave me with any lasting impression. I felt unmoved and uninterested by its concluding scenes. It's not that it's a bad movie, it's just that once it gets going, it fails to build on the momentum it has, letting itself dwindle into mediocrity.