‘In Her Shoes’ adaptation kicks life back into the chick flick genre

Thank God feel-good female films are back on the silver screen. After what seems like a decade of haphazardly strewn-together scripts attached to pretty, genial actors filling female film quotas at studios, this year has finally brought something substantial to cushion our tears. Adapted from Jennifer Weiner’s novel “In Her Shoes,” the film of the same name explores an intellectual, thoughtful understanding of family relationships and single women. Director Curtis Hanson (“8 Mile”, “L.A. Confidential”) brings a darker, sharper edge to what would have otherwise been a standard chick flick (how I hate that term). Missing is the cheesy lighting and trite dialogue of the genre; instead the audience is submerged in the softer, darker reality of relationships, family and skeletons in the closet.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
Sister act:

The dramedy features Toni Collette (“Muriel’s Wedding”) as Rose Feller, a straight-laced, complex-laden lawyer who is knocked off course over and over again by her free-spinning, dyslexic-but-charming younger sister Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz.

“In Her Shoes” reaches the zen of comedy and drama when the scene slyly shifts from dull Philadelphia into pastel-candy-mint Florida. Maggie arrives on the doorstep of their long lost grandmother, Ella Hirsh (brilliantly played with strength and subtlety by Shirley MacLaine), setting out to live with Ella after being kicked off of Rose’s couch and unwittingly unfurling the mysterious history of their mother’s death.

Ella’s charming neighbors in “a retirement community for active seniors” are portrayed by a slew of skilled comedic actors, providing an alarming parallel between the sisters and their friends and Ella and her friends. To break the awkward foreignness between Ella and Maggie in their initial time together, Ella’s friends suggest getting cable for “Sex and the City,” leading to a poignant and hilarious scene involving cosmopolitans, a monologue on anal sex and old people.

Luckily, most of the male-female relationship romances are kept low key, focusing the piece on family relationships and understanding the ugly past in order to make sense of the maddening present.

Rose and Maggie’s individual chemistry is starkly different, so their joint scenes seem to fall flat of expected chemistry between sisters. It was hard to believe they were ever related, because the moments establishing connection were so short lived. But the moments on their individual journeys that take them through growth show them as deep characters that can fit together in a puzzling sisterhood.

Don’t come expecting it to be anything other than what it is, which is a film prepared for an audience of women and the people who love them. But do expect it to exceed all expectations set by the previous trend of relationship dramas, and to be entranced by the charmingly flawed characters who dare to explore their humanness. Also see it if you love funny old people.