3 Stars
Year Released: 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 97 minutes
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For fans of Adam Brody who are grieving that “The O.C.” has been cancelled, have already seen “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” (Doug Liman, 2005) and “Thank You For Smoking” (Jason Reitman, 2005) and need a more substantial Brody fix, get thee to a movie theatre and watch writer-director Jon Kasdan’s film “In the Land of Women.”

Brody plays Carter Webb, a Los Angeles-based soft-core porn writer who flees to Detroit to take care of his ailing grandmother, Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis), and put the pain of being dumped by his model-actress girlfriend Sofia (Elena Anaya) behind him. In the film’s second scene Carter’s mother Agnes (JoBeth Williams) tells her son that women have always been drawn to him; therefore, it’s not surprising when the neighbors across the street become enamored with the courteous and mysterious new-kid-on-the-block.

Meg Ryan, who hasn’t been in a theatrically released film since Charles S. Dutton’s 2004 boxing film “Against the Ropes,” gives a subdued performance as Sarah Hardwicke, a mother struggling with a strained relationship with her older daughter Lucy Hardwicke (Kristen Stewart), a cheating husband (Gregg Clark), and her own failing health.

Both mother and daughter confide in Carter about all of their personal anxieties, but the younger daughter Paige Hardwicke (Makenzie Vega) takes a more light-hearted route with him. She engages in comical banter with Carter, which includes a reference to Colin Farrell. Kristen Stewart who lights up the screen with her unforced performance as an awkward and sensitive teenager going through adolescent dilemmas.

One wrong woman can harden a man’s heart, or at the very least put him in such a psychologically precarious situation that he may not get his wits back for a very long time. Carter luckily finds out that a household of the right women (a mother and two daughters) can quell the chaos and restore order. At the same time, he functions as a voice of reason and stabilizing force in their lives. In fact, Carter is like a male equivalent of Mary Poppins in that he enables a family to move past certain problems—he even stays until the “wind” changes.

Kasdan must have had Adam Brody in mind when conceiving and writing “In the Land of Women.” Were it not for Brody’s impeccable line delivery and charming demeanor, the film would be unpleasant to watch primarily because of alternating scenes of deadpan hilarity and emotionally draining character backstory.

Thinking charitably about the film, I could imagine it as a tribute to all the women that have influenced and inspired the director. A more critical consideration, however, would suggest that Kasdan had flipped through an issue of a woman’s magazine and pulled out excerpts of articles and “Dear Answer Lady” columns on how to deal with a life-threatening illness, a brooding teenage daughter, and a husband that is discreetly have an affair.

“In the Land of Women” isn’t a bad film per se—it’s just an empty film. The characters are representatives of narrative themes and consumer goods. When searching for your self, trying to mend a broken heart, or going for a jog, remember to be a good listener and bring your I-Pod.

Posted on April 23, 2007 in Reviews by

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