In Her Shoes Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/15/2006
I’ve noticed that chick flicks can always be enhanced by the inclusion of Shirley MacLaine. The latest example of this is In Your Shoes.
Rose Feller (Toni Collette) is a successful Philadelphia lawyer who is overweight, has a low self-esteem, and has a shoe fetish. Her younger sister, Maggie (Cameron Diaz), is the total opposite of her. She is a hot party girl who can’t hold down a job. She is frequently drunk and sexually active. The only thing that they have in common is that they have the same shoe size. Rose doesn’t date much, but she manages to have a sexual relationship with her boss…a senior partner at her law firm named Jim Danvers (Richard Burgi.) As the movie opens, Maggie goes to her ten-year high school reunion and hooks up with Todd (Anson Mount), a former classmate of hers. While sleeping with Jim one night, Rose gets a call from Maggie stating that she is drunk and needs Rose to drive her home. Maggie lives with their dad Michael (Ken Howard) and their step-mom Sydelle’s (Candice Azzara) house. Their mom, Caroline (Ivana Milicevic), was bipolar and died in a car accident, and he remarried. Sydelle was never happy with Maggie living with them, and this drunken stunt was the last straw. She kicks Maggie out (besides…she wants Maggie’s room for her “perfect” daughter Marsha to stay there.) Rose takes Maggie back to her place and tells her to get a job. Maggie goes to the auditions for a new MTV VJ on “Total Request Live,” and amazingly gets a callback (she probably lied about her age, since I think that all new VJ’s have to be under the age of 25.) When she goes back, she is asked to read a TelePrompter. She has dyslexia, so she has a problem with reading, and therefore she doesn’t get the job. Rose is excited to go on with a business trip with Jim, but she finds out that another lawyer, Simon Stein (Mark Feuerstein), will be going with her in Jim’s place, which upsets her. Maggie gets a job in a pet grooming place, and she brings home a dog with her named Honey Bun Two/Rufus (the sisters can’t decide on a name.) As she leaves her new job, she finds out that Rose’s car has been booted. A couple of guys named Grant (Eric Balfour) and Tim (Andy Powers) offer to take her to the tow shop. They suggest that they go out for drinks first, and they start getting fresh with her. She gets away, and goes home. When Rose gets back from her business trip, she finds the place a mess and a dog that she didn’t know about before. Rose doesn’t believe Maggie’s story about the boot and the guys. Rose tells her to get out by the time that she gets home from work. Maggie goes to their father’s house to pick up some of her stuff. While there, she finds a stash of birthday cards sent to them by their grandmother…a woman that she didn’t even know about. When she gets back to Rose’s apartment, Jim arrives, expecting to see Rose. Maggie seduces Jim, and Rose comes home and finds Maggie having sex with Jim. Rose kicks Maggie out, and Maggie decides to travel to Florida to visit with Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine), their widowed grandmother. Ella hasn’t seen either girls since they were little girls, due to a falling out with Michael following Caroline’s death. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Rose quits her job. She takes the dog back to the groomers, and they hire her to walk dogs for them. One day, while walking dogs, she bumps into Simon, and they have lunch. Eventually, they form a relationship, and they become engaged soon after. Back in Florida, Ella tries to get to know her granddaughter, but her scooter-bound friend, Mrs. Lefkowitz (Francine Beers), thinks that Maggie is just trying to mooch off her. She finds Maggie trying to take money out of a drawer so that she can go to New York to pursue acting, and Ella proposes a deal with her. If Maggie will get a job in a nearby nursing home, Ella will match Maggie’s salary. Maggie tries to convince Ella to get to know a widower named Lewis Feldman (Jerry Adler) who’s clearly smitten with her. As she begins work at the nursing home, Maggie meets a blind former English professor named Mr. Sofield (Norman Lloyd) who helps her with her reading. With the distance apart and their learning the truth about their family, the sisters begin to grow, and time will eventually reunite them.
Director Curtis Hanson seems to have a knack for pulling out an actor’s best performances. Even though he has been making films for over 25 years now, the first one I became familiar with was 1992’s The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. That movie pretty much defined Rebecca De Mornay’s career in a memorable performance. Next, he did 1994’s The River Wild, and he proved that he could make an action star out of Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep. 1997’s L.A. Confidential was a defining role for Russell Crowe, and Kim Basinger won her Oscar for it. 2000’s Wonder Boys was a little bit of a disappointment for me personally…even though other critics liked it (I did like that Oscar-winning song by Bob Dylan, “Things Have Changed,” though.) 2002’s 8 Mile proved that he could he could pull a great performance out of a virtual novice, like rapper Eminem.
For this movie, Hanson got some of the best performances out of the three principles…Collette, Diaz, and one of my favorites…MacLaine. Collette has proven over and over that she is a great actress. She purposely gained 25 pounds to play an overweight woman who eventually becomes thinner (she did this before…she gained 43 pounds to play her part in 1994’s Muriel’s Wedding.) I like Diaz, but this is possibly the best acting performance of her career. It wasn’t a stretch for her to play a sexually active hottie in the beginning of the movie, but she believably transitioned into a young woman with her feet on the ground later on in it. MacLaine plays essentially the same role she has played since 1977’s The Turning Point, and especially 1983’s Terms of Endearment…but she plays the part so well. She is always the sarcastic, funny older woman who spreads wisdom to younger women. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for this movie, and she deserved it.
I’ve never read the “chick-lit” novel of the same name written by Jennifer Weiner, but Hanson, using the screenplay adaptation written by Susannah Grant, managed to turn In Her Shoes into a “chick flick” that is funny, touching, and entertaining, even if it is a bit long (it runs two hours and eleven minutes.) I can see a little of myself in the relationship between the two Feller sisters. I’m more like the Rose character, and my brother is a little like the Maggie character. We’re as different as night and day. Fortunately, we love each other, and we would do whatever we could for each other. If you have a sibling that is completely different from you, this movie might be right up your alley.
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