Director And Cast Shine In Sensible SHOES.

Every year, around this time, we get big Oscar movies like JARHEAD, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA and THE NEW WORLD. IN HER SHOES could never compete for too big a piece of the Oscar pie, a couple of category-filler nominations at best. And this type of small gem will never set the box office on fire unless you get really lucky with the release date. No, it’ll quietly make a small pocket of money before doing well on DVD. People will generally regard it as “pretty good.”

But, within those parameters, IN HER SHOES is truly one of the better films of its type. It’s perfectly cast across the board. The characters are interesting to watch, especially when they’re bouncing their strong personalities off of each other. And the entire enterprise is guided by the smooth professional hand of director Curtis Hanson.
I actually thought the tone of Hanson’s WONDER BOYS was inconsistent, and the film was more uneven than endearingly quirky. His previous film, 8 MILE, was okay but pitched too squarely down the middle. Remove Eminem and you have a very cliché story. With IN HER SHOES, Hanson finds the right balance. The film’s funny at times, but never so much that it doesn’t feel real. And the drama hits the emotional beats just right.
The most interesting relationship in the movie is the extremely volatile one between Cameron Diaz’s hellcat hussy, Maggie and Toni Collette as her aggravated sister, Rose. The beginning section of the movie shows a real ferocious energy as the two sisters (both dealing with low self-esteem in very different ways) clash at every turn. As Diaz does an excellent job with her character’s self-destructive behavior, Collette matches with an increased mix of anger and hurt, building to a powerful crescendo.

From here the narrative splits in two while still feeling like one movie thanks to skilled story juggling. Shirley MacLaine enters the picture, as the sisters' absentee grandmother. The character could have easily been a one-note, chop-busting lesson of tough love, but that takes a backseat to long-dormant feelings of paternal nuturing. There's a lot of colors to play here, and MacLaine blends them into a rich, understated performance.
Also at this point a character actor named Mark Feuerstein becomes a more prominent figure. I want to take a moment to talk about him because it’s no surprise that MacLaine is so good, but this guy came pretty much from out of nowhere, and forms a very complex relationship with Toni Collette. He’s very fond of her, but this is not simply “the nice guy” role. Good work.
The film doesn’t contain too many surprises. Sisters who fight will eventually reconcile because sisters are sisters no matter what happens. But once again, the actors do some excellent work, filling the initial reunion with lingering hatred and hurt.
The final section of the film is the weakest because the story requires everyone to react exactly how you'd expect to for the required feel-good ending. The apologies are never as interesting as the arguments and I wish they had shaved off about 10 minutes.

So IN HER SHOES is not a great movie, but it’s really good and everyone involved should be proud of their work. You’ll see what I mean when you rent it.


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