In Her Shoes (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

In Her Shoes is formula of the quality sort. Formula that showcases big performances and metaphors, and mood-indicating rock songs.

In Her Shoes

Director: Curtis Hanson
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Ken Howard
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-10-07

See if you can guess where this set-up will lead: Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is something of a ditz, perennially irresponsible, reckless and promiscuous. Her sister Rose (Toni Collette) is a workaholic lawyer who's just started to date her boss, oh so tentatively, because she knows it's a bad idea. Maggie blows into town (Philadelphia), and, as she has no place to live, she crashes at Rose's for a few days that will turn into weeks. And oh yes, the first scene shows Maggie's 10 year high school reunion, where she's having sex in the bathroom, under Garbage's "Stupid Girl."

In Her Shoes is formula of the quality sort. Formula that showcases big performances and metaphors, and mood-indicating rock songs. It comes with a pedigree that indicates its bent. Directed by Curtis (L.A. Confidential) Hanson, written by Susannah (Erin Brockovich) Grant, and based on a Jennifer (Little Earthquakes) Weiner novel, it's a multigenerational chick flick. The sisters must come to terms not only with one another, but with the difficult background that has produced their movie-styled dysfunction. That is, their conflict is repeatedly framed as snapless one-liners to indicate character "interests," as when Rose suggests Maggie look for a job ("There's a whole world of commerce out there that has nothing to do with sex") or Maggie uncleverly deplores her sister's fashion sensibility ("1994 called; it wants its hair scrunchy back").

But of course, the girls also share certain traits and assumptions. For all their dissonance, they really do share basic values and aspirations, only hating each other and themselves because they're not more like each other. Among their shared experiences are a much-missed dead mom and a seemingly pathologically passive father, Michael (Ken Howard) (his story becomes more complicated soon enough). His second wife, the odiously named Sydelle (Candice Azzara), is as annoying as a tacky snob can be, resenting her husband's family and doting on her own daughter (whom the left-out-feeling sisters call "Mymarsha," after Sydelle's own possessive designation).

In their bonding against Sydelle, Maggie and Rose demonstrate a certain sameness, at least in their capacity to begrudge and judge. Their similarity is underlined as well in their affection for shoes. These come up repeatedly, as objects of desire and signs of emotional health. Rose has a closet full of them, expensive, neatly arranged and mostly un-worn. As Maggie's face reveals her simultaneous envy and approval, Rose's explanation is at once self-aware and pathetic: "Shoes always fit," she says, "I treat myself when I feel bad." A reverse shot of the frankly stunning collection indicates that Rose feels bad frequently. And beside that, as she puts it bluntly to her whiny sister, "I don't have room in my head for your problems right now."

And so, the shoes also mark the sisters' fundamental differences in attitude, self-regard, and impulse control: Rose preserves them, Maggie makes use of them. Though Rose declares the shoes off limits, as soon as she leaves for work, Maggie's all over them (after she's done rifling through Rose's drawers in search of cash). The sisters clash loudly when Rose discovers Maggie using something else Rose considers her property. By this point, you've learned that Maggie has reasons for her incessant screw-ups (namely, she's dyslexic and insecure, having grown up feeling inferior and unloved and abandoned, and yadda yadda yadda). And so Rose's furious, kick-ass dis -- having to do with Maggie's stupidity -- actually seems cruel, and Maggie's departure somewhat sad. This even though their barely repressed rage at one another has been making them and you miserable for the past 45 minutes.

So begins part two of In Her Shoes, wherein Maggie discovers the existence of a grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacClaine) and the sisters find even more grounds for their conflicts, with each other and with the world. Ella lives in a Florida retirement community, and is as cynical and tough as Maggie believes herself to be. Their even-matchedness leads both to soften up some, which is not to say they meet precisely halfway. Ella eventually makes the big move, inviting a couple of fellow retirees over to drink Cosmopolitans and watch Sex and the City, in an effort to engage Maggie's interest; Ella knows her target, as Maggie can't resist remembering how much she does indeed "like this episode," sitting herself down and sharing Carrie memories with her new friends and grandmother.

Ella and Maggie do, however, understand one another well enough that their evolving relationship elicits Rose's jealousy. For, while Maggie has been sunning herself in Florida, Rose has been residing in an alternate universe, turned into something of a puddly depressed mess. Looking to self-reinvent, she quits her lawyering job to walk dogs instead, and takes up with a former colleague, Simon (Mark Feuerstein), who appears genuinely nice (he takes her out for sushi and reads to her from her very own trashy romance novel, apparently indications of his sensitive-maleness).

Though Rose is unable even to tell Simon or her father of Maggie's disappearance, you are exposed to frequent moments of her distress -- phone calls, worried looks -- so that you anticipate a reunion. This is helped along by Ella, who decides she wants to meet her other granddaughter as well, and so the familial circle might be closed, or at least addressed as such. The sisters' separation leads to new ways of seeing themselves, new appreciations of one another, and new, less unhealthy competitions. Though they must endure a few more conflicts (at 131 minutes, the film milks this plot point a few too many times), Rose and Maggie do figure it out.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.