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Film Review ***: A Heartwarming Experience ‘In Her Shoes’

Seemingly Simple Chick Flick Delivers a Closetful of Human Emotion

By Danbee Kim

In Her Shoes

Directed by Curtis Hanson

Based on the novel by Jennifer Weiner

Screenplay by Susannah Grant

Starring Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, Brooke Smith

Rated PG-13

It’s a recipe for “that chick flick,” sure to make girlfriends cry and boyfriends speak the title in that slightly condescending tone of voice. But “In Her Shoes” throws in a mix of stellar acting, subtle and sophisticated character development, creative cinematography, and a few critical plot twists to take the movie from mediocre chick flick to a heartwarming tale of human relationships.

Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is sassy, flirty, and carefree, willing to let her looks pay her way through life. Her sister Rose (Toni Collette) is a self-conscious workaholic who tries to be responsible enough for both herself and Maggie. Her disdain for Maggie’s wild life clashes with Maggie’s disdain for Rose’s obsession with being a lawyer, and the almost-predictable sisterly face-off inevitably leads to a fiasco when the two try to live together.

The falling out pushes Maggie to visit a grandmother she had thought was long dead, and both sisters try to recover the missing pieces of their lives without each other. Both women undergo a beautiful character development through their relationships with others; Rose learns to have a little fun, while Maggie learns to find meaning in life. The story is punctuated by poignant scenes, such as Maggie reading a poem for a blind retired professor, and moments of absurdity, such as Rose waving a kitchen knife at her stepmother in teary frustration. When the two sisters finally find each other again and come to terms with their different personalities, it is after both remembering their sisterly love for each other and learning to grow outside each others’ shadows.

Through their rough times, Maggie and Rose take the audience with them as they rediscover their past, revealing the truth behind their mother’s death, the reasons for the lack of contact with their grandmother, and the undeniable fact that everyone has his own demons to battle, even those who seem to skip across the surface of it all.

As might be expected, shoes play both a thematic and cinematographic part in this movie. Rose owns a massive collection of shoes that any girl watching would die for, and yet she never wears them. Maggie, usually the one to take these fabulous shoes into the world, tells Rose that such shoes shouldn’t be hidden in the closet, but “living a life of scandal.” When asked why she buys shoes she never wears, Rose replies that unlike clothing that may not look good on her, or food that may not be healthy, shoes always fit; they never let her down.

The two sisters both envy each other and resent the imagined scorn they are sure the other is feeling. It isn’t until they learn to step into each other’s shoes and understand their relationship from the other’s perspective that they can fully appreciate their sisterhood.

Cameron Diaz plays Maggie with a delightful mix of panache and subtle inner insecurity, while Toni Collette brings to Rose a dry sense of irony and cynicism, throwing in several moments of physical comedy that are truly memorable. A stellar supporting cast helps to create this believable sisterly universe, including Shirley MacLaine as Ella, their strong-willed and somewhat crotchety grandmother with a heart of gold, and Francine Beers as Ella’s best friend, a wonderfully tactless lady who fondly reminds you of Sophia from “The Golden Girls.” The surprises the entire cast and crew bring to the familiar premise and style of chick flicks make “In Her Shoes” worth checking out — as they say, if the shoe fits, wear it.