Last night I went to the movies with Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Jada Pinkett Smith, Eva Mendes, Candice Bergen, Debi Mazar and a theater so packed full of megawatt star power I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I was at the premiere of The Women directed and written by Diane English. The movie opened to a packed theater. Diane English said a few words and introduced the cast. The atmosphere was charged with excitement, electric. It was nothing short of thrilling to feel the pride, joy and the positive energy that brought this film to be.
Continue reading for a review of the movie and my personal pictures from the premiere!
The Women is a thought provoking, familiar and funny commentary on female relationships, to ourselves and to others. It examines how we set our priorities, how we juggle work and family, and how we frame our world with our friends, our mothers, our daughters. It begs us to ask the question of ourselves, “What do I want?”. In seeking the answer to that essential question it not only takes men out of the equation – it takes them out of the film. Entirely! There are no men in The Women. Not in the background street scenes, the restaurants, etc. You might not even notice it if I had not mentioned it. And you probably won’t miss the guys. At least for the two hours you spend enjoying this funny and thought provoking movie.
If you think this sounds entirely modern, you will be amused to hear that the film is based on a 1939 classic of the same name (starring Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell), which was in turn based on a stage play written by Clare Booth Luce.
The film explores themes like loyalty and identity while examining the lives of four friends played by Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and Jada Pinkett Smith. When Mary (Meg Ryan) discovers her husband is having an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes) she turns to her mother (Candice Bergen) for advice. “Don’t tell your friends” her mom advises, suggesting that in their efforts to help the friends will make it more about themselves. Of course the friends do find out, and their assorted reactions to the news, are what makes this film tick. Mary’s problems are the catalyst that leads to a whole lot of self examination on everyone’s part.
Issues of image are always at the surface. In a heartbreaking conversation between magazine editor Sylvie (Annette Bening) and Meg Ryan’s confused tweenaged daughter Molly (India Ennenga), Molly tells Sylvie she wants to be just like the women in her magazine. Sylvie laughs and acknowledges the mixed messages we all get and send, confirming that “no-one looks like that, not even the people in the magazines. They’re all airbrushed”
If the characters and lifestyles of The Women are a little airbrushed as well however, I forgive them. I’m a complete sucker for the visual feast of the purse department at Saks and the custom cabinetry & Apple TV appointed Connecticut kitchen inhabited by Mary and her staff. There’s enough truth in the relationships to make up for the fantasy in locations. And there are no weak players in this film. Everyone is funny and spot on, and the film delivers one stand out scene after another, including a classic Meg Ryan rant (watch out for the stick of butter) and a memorable scene of labor “delivered” by Debra Messing. Cloris Leachman proves she’s still got it at 82. She’s brilliant as Mary’s housekeeper Maggie and just hysterical when paired with an adorable sidekick, nanny Uta (Tilly Scott Pederson). Jada Pinkett was fierce, playing commitophobe lesbian Alexis Smith. She’s tough but not so tough as she thinks. And Eva Mendes simply sizzled in Saks as every housewife’s worst nightmare.
The Women was sponsored by the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It’s one of those rare moments where sponsorship makes sense. Some might criticize this alliance, because there were certainly many beautiful women in this film, and some were clearly not all au natural. Bette Midler looks pretty botoxed in her cameo and Candice appears freshly face-lifted in one of her scenes. Mary Haines’ triumph over adversity seems to also be a triumph over her unruly curls. Getting it together is somehow tied to getting her hair flat-ironed. And yet, this did not bother me. I’m happy that the film did not try to send a simplistic or preachy message about beauty and self image, to tell us that there is only one way to be beautiful, either with or without makeup and styling.
In fact there were some notable scenes where both Annette Bening and Deborah Messing appeared with minimal makeup and styling. And they both glowed in those moments, appearing at least as beautiful as when they were perfectly coiffed.
Being a woman is confusing at times, isn’t it? It’s complex, like Sylvie told Molly. We all make a lot of choices, and have many facets. Often at the end of the day the most important accomplishments, big or small, are those that we see reflected in our children’s eyes. Our success is sweetest when measured in their pride and their confidence. It’s ironic that often at our most vulnerable and least coiffed stages is when we are our most beautiful. That message came through. Kudos to Diane English.