Jon Kasdan's directorial debut, In the Land of Women
, is a touching romantic comedy portraying the love quandaries of a hip, Hollywood twenty-something to show how his fast-paced life as a porn screenwriter encourages the jaded attitude at the root of his angst. Carter Webb (Adam Brody) hangs out in a recognisable Los Feliz cafe, where in the opening scene he is dumped by his sultry Gap-model girlfriend. In hopes of salvaging his last ounce of creativity to pen a real story, Carter escapes to peaceful, suburban Michigan to care for his grandmother, Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis). Phyllis' death obsession, however, drives him outdoors, where he befriends neighbour Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) and her two daughters, Lucy (Kristen Stewart) and Paige (Mackenzie Vega). Bonding with both the more mature Sarah, sick with breast cancer, and the discombobulated teen Lucy, Carter redefines love with his new understanding of what it means to think about things other than one's self.
Bright, crisp colours and fairly natural lighting lends the film a contemporary feel, and the script is surprisingly unsentimental. Ryan's performance--less saccharine than some previous--along with Brody's wry character and Dukakis as a bitter dying woman, help the film to avoid corny melodrama so common to the genre. Unfortunately, the ending is too neatly tied up, but not enough to destroy what emotional poignancy the film has generated. Ultimately a critique of the vacant, superficial lifestyle that a life in Hollywood perpetuates, In the Land of Women
leaves one wondering whether Kasdan's attraction to the script wasn't based on his own Los Angeles experiences. -Trinie Dalton
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