Tuesday, April 2, 2013

# 87: In the Land of Women (2007)

Code-name: Colin Farrell sucks

Writer/Director: Jonathan Kasdan
Type: Chick Flick

Carter Webb- Adam Brody
Sarah Hardwicke- Meg Ryan
Lucy Hardwicke- Kristen Stewart
Phyllis- Olympia Dukakis
Paige Hardwicke- Makenzie Vega
Nelson Hardwicke- Clark Gregg
Sofia- Elena Anaya


When I first decided to do this list, I knew I wanted to include a bunch of movies that weren't deemed to be among the best... in fact, several were panned by audiences and critics alike. But they were ones that I either responded to on a personal level or, plain and simple, I enjoyed watched them and they always have me coming back for more.

A number of reasons can come up as to why not many like this particular movie.
There's a lot of hate going around when it comes to Kristen Stewart, whether it's the cheating scandal or the standard belief that she's one of the worst actresses in today's ranks... some of the people who believe that are Twi-haters who dislike everything about the franchise and others just aren't fond of her in general.

But this movie predates "Twilight" and its many sequels and happens to be the first time I got acquainted with Kristen Stewart in general. I think she's great in this and the same can be said about all of the cast.

This movie first appeared on my radar because of Adam Brody.
I'm a die-hard fan of "The O.C." and even though things ended on a good note with the series, I wanted to see more of Seth Cohen... the nerdy, socially awkward only child of the Cohens, who came out of his shell thanks to the kid from the other side of the tracks, Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie). It was Seth Cohen who gave us the joy of Chrismukkah, renewed love of comic books and Captain Oats. He was also living the dream as the guy who would go on to win over the "It" girl, Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson). 

Now, Carter Webb isn't quite the same as Seth Cohen. For starters, Carter is an L.A. screenwriter who specializes in soft-core porn. (With the exception of a few lines of dialogue, it's scarcely mentioned in the movie at all). He's also a guy who'd been out of high school for a while, somewhat jaded by the real world and after his model girlfriend Sofia dumps him, he feels lost.
So he makes the drastic decision to go to Michigan to take care of his ailing grandma, if only to get away for a while.
The two characters aren't quite the same, but Adam Brody still brings a lot of what made me fall in love with him in "The O.C." That alone makes me come back to this movie again and again, if only to relive some great memories.

The movie is true to its name... with the exception of Mr. Hardwicke (who we only see in a handful of scenes) and couple guys from Lucy's school, Carter is the one dude in this town surrounded by women, two of which happen to be mother and daughter.

Everyone who was into movies in the 90's (and some of the 80's)... heck, even though who weren't, they know that Meg Ryan is a staple in the "chick flick" genre... most of them just happen to be Nora Ephron movies where she ended up with Tom Hanks.
For a change of pace, we not only see her as a mom, but a woman with ideals that span beyond a relationship with the opposite sex, whether it's the pursuit or possession of it. 

Carter may be a few years out of high school and a veteran of the real world, but he's a bit of an old soul so he and Sarah develop a special bond because they share some of the same values.
It starts when the two of them start walking together and having deep, thought-provoking discussions along the way. Carter is still hung up on Sofia and talks about how he'd written dozens of letters to her that were deeply romantic and among the best stuff he'd ever written. But after a while, he starts to realize he'd done this with every relationship he'd been in: he puts his girlfriends on a pedestal and his expectations of what they are don't equal what they're really like.
He tells all this to Sarah and she says how it's a shame people don't write each other letters anymore. There's a certain sentimentality in this back and forth... it really is a great scene, if only to see the human condition from this unique perspective.

Sarah battles breast cancer in this film, which helps explain her sentimental mood, but part of it stems from the fact her husband had an affair. Perhaps she's seeking counsel with Carter to feel like she's appreciated.

It's also somewhat of a given that because Carter is new on the block, Sarah asks her daughter Lucy to spend time with him, take him out to see a movie and all that. Her younger sister Paige invites herself along as well. In a nutshell, she's one of many precocious little girls in these movies that seems a little too smart for her own good. Ruthie from "7th Heaven" comes to mind for me as the standard example of that archetype. It's not very realistic, but I enjoy it every time.

Lucy, I can only describe as your typical awkward high school girl, who's a helluva painter. She has her own studio in the basement and puts together a pretty amazing piece that looks like a portrait of her mom. Overall, she isn't developed as a character quite as well as the other girls in her family. But by the end of it, despite some discrepancies between her and her mom that have created rifts between them over the years, you see that the love is really there when it counts.

When they go out to the movies, Carter meets her friend Eric, who works at the mall's Orange Julius. (If not for this movie, I would not have known what one of those places was. One of many details I love to log away from the movies I watch). Lucy also asks for Carter's help with a situation she has with her boyfriend, Gabe, who wants to take their relationship to the next level, but because she doesn't want to, he's talking stuff behind her back.
Carter comes with her to this school party to help set the record straight (with some help with Eric, who more or less comes out and says he thinks she's amazing and Gabe blew it with her).
This scene also kinda proves that Seth Cohen still needs to learn how to defend himself in a fist fight.

Of course the greatest relationship in this movie is between Carter and his grandma. She's old, verging on senile, but everything that comes out of her mouth is HILARIOUS. There's a subtle, somewhat demented, sarcasm in her sense of humor, whether her character is aware of it or not.

When I first came across the movie in passing, having forgotten completely about wanting to see it, it was during what looked like a very dramatic scene.
Carter arrives back at the house, things are quiet and Phyllis comes into the room. He asks what's wrong.
Phyllis: It's possible... I think... maybe... my toilet might be stopped up

Geesh, you'd think she came across a dead body in the other room... the shift in the mood was so sharp and it made for a huge laugh.
Throughout the movie, she keeps telling Carter that she's going to die and to be ready to call the hospice because they'll take the best care of her corpse.

"They'll put me in a big zip-loc bag and take me down to the morgue."

And one time when Lucy stops by, she opens the door and she's not wearing pants. Carter tries to talk sense into her, but fails miserably:
Carter: Grandma, listen to me. It's not okay to answer the door when you're not wearing pants. In fact, it's never okay to do anything involving other people when you're not wearing any clothes.
Phyllis: I'm wearing a sweater

(spoilers ahead)

Between this, that and the other, things get a little complicated with Carter and the Hardwicks, especially after he kisses Sarah and Lucy.
Carter stops by later on to drop something and Sarah asks that he doesn't touch Lucy again.

This is in the 3rd act of the film and where it starts to lose me just a little bit.
Me, I'm asking myself what's the logic in this exchange? Lucy's closer to his age and Sarah's married. It sounded to me as if she was jealous and wanted Carter all to herself.
Then I remembered that Lucy was only 16-17 and Carter's in his late 20's.

Things more or less work themselves out, all thanks to Carter simply being there.
Lucy and Sarah repair their relationship.
Phyllis had someone to look after her in her final hours (despite Carter's insistence that she's fine and will be fine, she dies at the tender age of 133... ok, maybe not that, but in their final conversation, she says that she is that old).
Carter got some valuable experiences from the people he met and he's ready to move on to the next thing.

The saddest part about this was that Carter told his grandma that he's writing a children's book... well, you can't tell your grandma you write porn, whether she can understand you or not... he actually does finish his story about Pandy, a Teddy Bear whose character he based on himself.
The story begins when the child he belongs to abandons him and replaces him with Colin Farrell.

..which brings us back to the top.

I actually did not take issue with Colin Farrell until I saw this movie. I enjoyed him in a couple of movies he starred in in the early 2000's.
Colin Farrell becomes a running joke in this movie, a good running joke, but still one I take issue with... because Adam Brody, at least as Seth Cohen, is a guy I'd deem as "my type" and I hate to see anyone kicking him when he's down.

Sofia is a model and it is rumored, according to Paige when they see a poster of her at the mall, that she's dating Colin Farrell.
Five minutes later, they're looking at the movie listings and he's there again:

Paige: Hey, let's see the new Colin Farrell movie
Carter: Hey, let's not... What is with you and that guy?

After he came back to the movies after a couple of years of being away, getting himself in order and all that, I'd seen Colin Farrell in the "Fright Night" remake (where I took delight in his death) and "Minority Report" (where I cheered when he got killed because his character was annoying me)...
then there's the European film "In Bruges" that stars Harry Potter alums Ralph Fiennes and Brendan Gleeson... where his little heard Irish accent (outside of interviews) makes up for the impression I have of him... simply because his mere existence has created annoyance for some movie characters I enjoy watching.

...unfortunately, there is another movie further (much further) down my list that involves another Colin Farrell diss... so Farrell fangirls, my apologies ahead of time, you have been warned.

The movie has its good points and bad points for sure, but it's a personal favorite of mine that I bring out every now and then for another visit.

If anything, it's for the witty dialogue from Olympia Dukakis and the relationship that develops between Carter and Sarah. Granted, it's a little unconventional and unusual (at least the most they do is kiss in one dramatic scene where it's raining... for no apparent reason other than it being a dramatic chick-flick/rom-com scene), but it's a very sweet relationship where the details make it work for me every time.

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