Thursday, April 10, 2014

In Her Shoes

Originally Written and Posted at on 9/12/06 w/ Additional Edits & Revisions.

Based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner, In Her Shoes is the story of two very different sisters whose rocky relationship leads to the younger sister to find shelter in the grandmother she had just discovered while the oldest tries to deal with the chaos in her own life. Directed by Curtis Hanson and screenplay by Susannah Grant, the film is an exploration into the world of sisterhood as two different women come to terms with their sisterly bond as well as the mother they lost as they try to find answers with the woman who hadn't been in their life. Starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Ken Howard, Brooke Smith, Candice Azzara, Mark Feurerstein, Jerry Adler, and Shirely MacLaine. In Her Shoes is a smart and heartfelt film from Curtis Hanson.

The film is an exploration into the life of two sisters where the only thing they have in common is their shoe size as both of them still deal with the wound of losing their mother many years ago. For Rose Feller (Toni Collette), she's a workaholic lawyer who doesn't have much of a social life and often looks plain. For her younger sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz), she's a dyslexic party-girl with no sense of direction as she often causes trouble. After an incident that forced Rose to kick Maggie out, Maggie goes to Florida to the home of the grandmother she had just discovered. Upon meeting Ella Hirsch(Shirley MacLaine), Maggie eventually finds some direction in her life while Rose also finds some new moments that would help her but the two sisters still need each other to sort out things as well as deal with the death of their mother when they were kids. It's a film that could've played to a lot of tropes that is common with female-based comedy-drams that is often tagged as "chick-flicks" but it's a film that has so much more.

Screenwriter Susannah Grant creates a story of these two sisters who diverge and come together to deal with the missing pieces in their family as well as the woman who hadn't been in their life very much in their grandmother. Upon discovering into why Ella wasn't around following the death of their mother, Rose and Maggie are forced to deal with not just some harsh truths about their mother's death. They also deal with their own issues as Maggie is a young woman who didn't grow up with a mother which definitely plays into her lack of direction and the need for money so she can party. For Rose who is always responsible, she has the urge to protect Maggie from the people in her life including a man named Simon Stein (Mark Feurerstein) who was a colleague of hers at a firm as the two fall in love and become engaged. The very few things Maggie and Rose do have in common aside from their shoe-size is their disdain for their stepmother Sydelle (Candice Azzara) who had never liked them either often favoring her daughter Marcia (Jackie Geary). Grant does take stock into structuring the film with such ease where the first act is about the two sisters, the second act is about Maggie meeting Ella and Rose finding her own path in life, and the third is about the two sisters reuniting and mend the broken pieces in their family.

Curtis Hanson's intimate yet character-driven direction is quite simple yet is often very engaging for the way it balances comedy and drama. Shot in South Florida and Philadephia, Hanson's direction creates some unique compositions in its use of medium and wide shots. Even in scenes where the humor is light-hearted in some parts of the film while the drama gets a bit melodramatic but not overtly. Hanson knows how to set up the humor and drama while creating moments that do play into the development of the characters in key scenes as well as the story about the death of Rose and Maggie's mother. Overall, Hanson crafts a very smart and touching comedy-drama about two sisters dealing with the broken pieces in their life.

Cinematographer Terry Stacey does some great work in the shading design for many of the film's interior scenes in Philadelphia as well as some wonderful coloring in the Florida sequences to set the intimacy that Hanson wanted. Editors Lisa Zeno Churgin and Craig Kitson do excellent work with the editing in creating some stylish montages as well as going for some straightforward cutting techniques. Production designer Dan Davis does fantastic work in using the locations, notably Florida for its colorful, vibrant look to convey the peaceful tranquility that Maggie and Ella lived. Costume designer Sophie Carbonell also helps with the look by designing some great clothing not just for Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette but also Shirley MacLaine and the older actresses to give them a look that helps the story. Composer Mark Isham does a wonderful score in playing to the film's vibrancy and character struggle while the music features a great soundtrack mixed in with pop music like Garbage to some reggae featuring the music of Bob Marley.

The film's cast has some wonderful small performances from Jackie Geary as Sydelle's daughter My Marcia, Brooke Smith as Rose's friend Amy, Carlease Burke as the animal shelter manager, model Ivana Milicevic as Rose and Maggie's mother in pictures, Norman Lloyd as the blind professor, and Richard Burgi as Jim. Other notable small roles from Candice Azarra as Rose/Maggie's stepmother Sydelle is funny while Ken Howard is good as Rose/Maggie's father Michael. Notable standout performances include Jerry Adler as the charming Lewis Feldman and a better, funnier supporting role from Francine Beers as Mrs. Lefkowitz. Mark Feuerstein is good as the sensitive, good-natured Simon who brings all the right qualities that Rose needs in a man while having his own moments to be funny when talking about basketball.

Shirley MacLaine delivers another masterful yet heartfelt performance as Ella Hirsch. MacLaine remains to be very beautiful at her age while her wisdom and concern for the young woman prove her mastery at restrained comedy and even more restraint in drama as she brings a lot of ground for Diaz and Collette to work on while having her own fun. It’s MacLaine that really shines in the film as she continues to be a forced to be reckoned with.

Toni Collette delivers another great performance as the more straight-laced, somewhat neurotic Rose who has a lot of physical and emotional insecurities. Collette manages to make her character develop as she has more emotional scenes that are dramatic while having the time to be funny as Collette proves to be one of the most talented actresses of her generation. Cameron Diaz is often known as kind of bubbly yet a whole lot of fun to see. It's easy to forget that she's an actress and she proves that in her role as Maggie. While Diaz starts off in a more fun yet irresponsible personality, she does allow herself to let the character grow where Diaz brings a lot of depth to a woman who still finds fun in helping old women find new clothes or read to the blind professor. It's a fine performance from Diaz while she has great chemistry with Collette and MacLaine.

In Her Shoes is a remarkable film from Curtis Hanson that is highlighted by the radiant performances of Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, and Shirley MacLaine. It's a film that is funny as well as heartwarming in the way it explores the relationship between sisters as it has something to offer for not just women but men as well. In the end, In Her Shoes is a sensational film from Curtis Hanson.

© thevoid99 2014

No comments: