In the Land of Women Jonathan Kasdan
Published Dec 06, 2007One of the greatest moments of being a cinema fan are those when you go into a film convinced you have the film clocked without having to see it. Such was the case with this. The title wasn't promising, it reeked of "chick flick. Also, it was headlined by that O.C. actor Adam Brody. I settled in for what I thought would be another generic Hollywood bore-fest. Well, I was wrong. Brody plays Carter, a young soft-core porn writer who opens the film by being dumped by his hot-shot actress girlfriend. This heartbreak sends him out of Los Angeles, to Michigan to care for his crotchety grandmother who is constantly convinced she is on death's door. The grandmother is played to the hilt by Olympia Dukakis, who manages to be likeable and unlikeable simultaneously in that Walter Matthau tradition. Across the street lives a family a husband, wife, and two daughters. Carter befriends wife Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) on frequent walks. Sarah is coming to terms with her recent diagnosis of breast cancer and her husband's infidelity. Meg Ryan's character, feeling sorry for romantically-challenged Carter, sets him up with her daughter Lucy (Kirsten Stewart). He becomes her confidante around her own relationship with her mother, as well as her romantic life. His friendship helps them to overcome obstacles in their lives, while simultaneously helping him. The film throws curveballs in a very delightful way. Neither the relationship with the mother or the daughter turn out the way you would expect. There are no cliches here, which is a relief for someone entirely bored with Hollywood convention. Meg Ryan plays her role well, and the film does not succumb to the "Mrs. Robinson plot trap it would have been easy to fall into. Even oddball actress Makenzie Vega is terrific as Sarah's youngest daughter, Paige. Director Kasdan (son of Big Chill writer/director Lawrence Kasdan) allows for and is not afraid of silent moments in a scene, showing sensitivity and grace in both his writing and directing. This is an excellent outing for Adam Brody, proving that if you put a good script and a competent director in front of him, this guy can act. There is an honest sentiment here reminiscent of Elizabethtown or Garden State. My only gripe is the lack of features on the DVD. Give this film a chance, you will be entertained, if not moved.