This was a big hit in the US, apparently: nice to know that appreciation of contrived and lifeless ‘dramedy’ is alive and well.
On paper, In Her Shoes‘s credentials appear impeccable – director Curtis Hanson, who famously made such a top-notch job of L.A. Confidential (1997), could easily have drawn career performances from Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette, if only there had been anything original or demanding in Susannah Grant’s script. For the most part, unfortunately, there isn’t.
Maggie Feller (Diaz) is the perpetual party girl – no time for career or even steady work, she lurches from one job, man and friend/relative’s sofa to the next. Virtually illiterate and having barely graduated from high-school, she has no confidence in her intellectual ability, prizing her attractiveness to the opposite sex and innate talent for choosing the perfect outfit for any occasion above any book.
She is the bane of her sister Rose’s (Collette) life; her elder sibling is a workaholic attorney at a Philadelphia law firm, with her beautifully decorated pre-war apartment and huge collection of beautiful footwear to protect her from the outside world. Surprise, surprise, she’s Maggie’s exact opposite when it comes to a social life: her low self-esteem, constant struggle with her weight and lack of confidence about clothes has left her love life virtually non-existent.
She loves her shoes, because they always fit, but has precious few opportunities to take them out of the closet. Of course Maggie, who’s presently residing chez Rose, has more than enough dates, but the girls are heading for a huge fall-out. Perhaps the discovery of their maternal grandmother Shirley MacLaine (the best part of the film) will help – what do you think?
There are some enjoyable moments, to be sure; Diaz has managed to define herself as the thinking man’s babe with her excellent performances in Being John Malkovich (1999) and Vanilla Sky (2001), and she has some fun undermining these earlier persona as the definitive slutty siren Maggie.
Collette, too, is likeable (though how we’re supposed to perceive her as ‘frumpy’ is quite beyond this reviewer, as she is more than easy on the eye), but it is in the relationship between the two siblings that the film loses its way; despite a couple of screaming rows, there’s never any real credibility to the pair as sisters, and the pat explanation as to why they’re both as they are (it’s about their relationship with their dead mum, natch) is patronising and simplistic in the extreme.
Good to see MacLaine having a fair stab at playing a neglected, irascible matriarch, but even here, there’s little chance for any believable bitterness before saccharine swamps the story. Excusing it as a ‘chick-flick’ won’t wash, either – a big disappointment.