Blu-Ray Review: Remake of ‘The Women’ Fails on Every Level
CHICAGO – The long-delayed remake of “The Women”, the 1939 classic film that has been in the pipeline for years, should have stayed in terminal development hell. The grating, unbelievable dramedy from writer/director Diane English wastes a talented cast including Meg Ryan and Annette Bening on a two-dimensional, cliche-ridden screenplay and the Blu-Ray release for the film represents a rare misstep for Warner Brothers.
A lot of big releases have hit the marketplace hoping to grab a little bit of the Christmas dollar, but I think “The Women” is in the mix just because its producers and studio want it to get buried in the rush. Maybe no one will notice that “The Women” is one of the worst movies of 2008 and we can all move on to bigger and better releases in 2009.
Whoever first had the idea to turn “The Women” into a modern “Sex and the City” rip-off about a group of female friends battling infidelity, broken friendships, motherhood, and careers deserves the brunt of the blame for the failure of this project. Every frame of the film feels like a project that was a failure from conception and viewers are just being subjected to the inevitable result of some truly misguided planning. The big-screen “SATC” may have had its flaws but it looks like Shakespeare compared to this effort.
“The Women” is about a group of Manhattan socialites, many of whom love to gossip over getting their nails done at Saks and carry around their yappy dogs. Over a manicure, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), a fashion magazine editor, hears that her best friend Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) is being cheated on with a girl (Eva Mendes) who happens to work at the perfume counter. Mary discovers the infidelity and is supported by two other friends, a lesbian played by Jada Pinkett Smith and a mother trying desperately to have a boy played by Debra Messing. Candice Bergen, Bette Midler, Carrie Fisher, and Cloris Leachman co-star in small roles.
Based loosely on Clare Boothe Luce’s Broadway hit and the 1939 movie of the same name, the creator of “Murphy Brown,” Diane English, has chosen to update the original story in the most superficial ways imaginable. Most viewers wouldn’t want to spend a few minutes with any of the egotistical, obnoxious females who populate “The Women,” making rooting for their success in the film impossible.
English makes the classic screenwriting mistake of never choosing a tone, leaving “The Women” in-between screwball comedy and realism, neither funny nor genuine. Even the usually charming Bening comes off grating and mis-directed. There’s not a single moment of witty dialogue or character-driven revelation. Why would we possibly care about the trials and tribulations of these cat-fighting women when we wouldn’t want to spend more than five minutes with any of them?
The Blu-Ray release for “The Women” matches the ineffectiveness of the film itself. The video transfer in 1080p High Definition with a transfer ratio of 1.85:1 is surprisingly flat for Warner Brothers, the studio that usually produces the most vibrant and colorful pictures on the market. It can be difficult to tell if it’s the bland color palette employed by English or the transfer, but “The Women” barely looks HD on Blu-Ray. And the sound is also a weakness, almost entirely mixed to the front speakers, even the score.
As for special features, “The Women” includes a few deleted scenes and two featurettes - “The Women Behind the Women” and “The Women: The Legacy”. It’s not surprising that there are no commentary tracks on “The Women” as that would require the people who made the film to sit through it again. Follow their lead and pretend “The Women” never happened.