One of the best date films of 2005, In Her Shoes is a dramatic relationship comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Directed by Curtis Hanson, the hand behind such films as 8 Mile (2002), LA Confidential (1997), and The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (1992), the film is successful in a genre where so many of its peers have miserably failed.
The casting is superb, and the onscreen interaction between the various characters creates a realistic impression of wavering love and conflict. Based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner, it weaves a tale of two sisters with differing lifestyles and a lifetime of personal baggage.
In Her Shoes begins with the latest installment of an ongoing personality clash between sisters Rose (Toni Collette) and Maggie (Cameron Diaz) Feller. When the shy and reserved Rose is approached by the most eligible bachelor in her law firm, the two hit it off quite nicely.
But Maggie ruins the affair when she shows up on Rose’s doorstep and steals the man away with her unrelenting flirtations. After constant feuding, Rose kicks Maggie out while contemplating her own future.
She takes a leave of absence from her law firm and contemplates dog walking as an alternative career path. Along the way, she encounters another colleague from the firm, Simon Stein (Mark Feuerstein). The two strike up a romantic relationship, but Rose’s past threatens to ruin the whole thing.
Meanwhile, Maggie discovers the two have a long-lost grandmother, Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine), who lives in Florida. With no one left to leech off of, Maggie heads straight for Ella’s retirement community.
But Ella has no intention of being a human punching bag, and for the first time in her life, Maggie meets someone who won’t put up with her perpetual self-centeredness and grossly inconsiderate behavior. It’s a stand-off certain to change the lives of everyone involved.
Toni Collette is outstanding in the role of the responsible and untrusting sister, Rose. She portrays an overachieving, yet somewhat socially awkward, individual sick of playing the part of parent to her wild and rebellious sister. Her actions are understandable and believable; her reluctance to see Maggie in a new light is well-paced.
On an equal note, Cameron Diaz fits the part of the irresponsible, yet likeable, Maggie. Yearning for approval, her arrested development transitions to adulthood in the face of unconditional love.
The strength of In Her Shoes is almost solely attributable to the various performances of the cast and the screenplay itself. This isn’t a plot-driven movie, and the slightest bit of awkwardness between cast members or the least bit of forced dialogue could wreck the whole film.
Luckily, the audience experiences neither, and most viewers will walk away satisfied with their experience. Kudos to screenwriter Susannah Grant whose portfolio includes box office hits like Erin Brockovich (2000), Ever After (1998), and Pocahontas (1995).
Grant’s vast expertise in manufacturing high quality scripts provided the cast with a firm foundation from which to deliver their lines.
Overall, In Her Shoes is not a blockbuster titan of the big screen. It has few memorable one-liners, but from an entertainment standpoint, it works well. It whisks its audience away to another place and time without leaving them empty handed, and that’s what all good movies are supposed to do.
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