In Her Shoes

People do not necessarily think of Cameron Diaz as an actor, and she's hasn't really done anything to make people believe otherwise. Diaz (Shrek 2, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle) usually stays within the bound of very marketable movies that do not require much on the acting front. She is an extremely beautiful woman, and is more likely to show off her body than her acting chops. For every Being John Malkovich, there are three or four forgettable films. So it takes a film like In Her Shoes to surprise everybody. Diaz's performance anchors the film, and she even manages to one-up her co-star Toni Collette (The Last Shot, Connie and Carla), a tremendous actor.

Diaz and Collette are Maggie and Rose Feller, two mismatched sisters. Rose is the responsible one. She is a high-powered workaholic attorney with no social life or boyfriend. When she gets depressed, she buys expensive shoes only to stow them away in her closet. Maggie is the exact opposite. She works intermittently, has flings with men, and is pretty much completely irresponsible. They love each other deeply, but sometimes do not know how to love each other. No matter what, Rose is always there to help Maggie with her problems, even though it tends to cause Rose lots of extra grief. Maggie finds herself kicked out of her house, and again living on Rose's sofa. She sleeps with a man whom Rose is beginning to date, causing a huge rift between the two sisters, and the beginning of an extended separation.

In Her Shoes is based on the novel by Jennifer Weir and directed by Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, Wonder Boys) and adapted by Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich, 28 Days). Hanson and Grant are extremely talented people behind the camera. Hanson in particular is able to bring out the humanity in relationships, tempered with Grant's ability to take relationships and make them accessible. The extended break between Rose and Maggie causes both to begin a journey of introspection that will hopefully make them better people. Rose quits her job and begins walking dogs. She finds herself happier than she has been in years, but still knows that something is missing.

Maggie's story is much more moving. In the past, she was not above stealing money from her friends, and even from Rose. She discovers she has a grandmother she did not know about living in a retirement community in Florida. She visits Ella Hirsch (a feisty Shirley MacLaine, Bewitched, Bruno) intending to get some money in order to move to New York. As expected, things do not turn out as expected. She believed that Hirsch abandoned them, not knowing that her father intentionally shut Hirsch out. Hirsch can see right through Maggie. She loves her granddaughter, but is not willing to put up with any of Maggie's crap. This directness is something new for Maggie. She stays, only because she has no way to leave. The retirement home serves as a haven away from all the negative influences that Maggie frequently succumbed to, and allows her to take a serious look at her life. Hanson and Grant mix humor and genuine emotion into Maggie's transformation, and Diaz's performance makes it wholly believable. She is a broken woman trying to piece her life together, and trying to learn how to be responsible when she has no prior knowledge of how to do so. Yeah, it's a total chick flick, but it works.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 10 minutes, Rated PG-13 for thematic material, language, and some sexual content.

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