Sounds like yer standard chick-flick aimed squarely at the Chardonnay crowd, right? Look closer. No Carly Simon theme tune. No Nora Ephron... Yes, In Her Shoes is definitely one for the ladies, but it’s also an intelligent crowd-pleaser gents can enjoy (but more on the Diaz bum shots later).
This isn’t some demographically approved cash cow cobbled together by studio committee. Jennifer Weiner’s bestselling novel has been adapted by Erin Brockovich scribe Susannah Grant and boasts the same ear for girl-talk, deftness at schmaltz-sidestepping and lightness of touch (especially when dealing with the spectre of mental illness).
Then there’s Curtis LA Confidential Hanson. Not the obvious candidate to helm something so oestrogen-heavy, perhaps, but his nose for character study adds a major shot of credibility. There’s a wedding scene which could so easily have been an overblown, tissues-ahoy button-pusher but, in Hanson’s hands, it’s a sweet and moving moment of family connection.
His taste for lively casting hasn’t dulled either, and though he can’t resist a few lingers on Diaz’s arse, he also mines her talent for playing edgy, bitter and mean. Starting to look her age, but still stunning, she’s perfect as hellcat Maggie; a woman who uses her looks to get from one free drink to the next. “You won’t always look like this,” meows Rose.
Despite fearlessly playing up Maggie’s selfish and ugly sides, Diaz has enough of a vulnerable undertone to elicit sympathy and understanding – essential when she’s playing against the likeable Collette. As chubby (she gained 25lbs), serious Rose, whose goodwill is sucked dry by her vampiric sis, she’s Bridget Jones with soul; a multi-faceted, fallible Everywoman.
The geriatric Greek chorus is a bum note (as if Cocoon crash-landed in the middle of the screenplay) but Hanson does a remarkable job of keeping the sisters’ separate stories equally vital, throwing in light relief and acting chops from the likes of Shirley MacLaine – a poised and sensitive turn that might just bag her another Oscar nod.