Set in New York City’s modern whirl of fashion and publishing, “The Women” tells the story of Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), a clothing designer who seems to have it all – a beautiful country home, a rich financier husband, an adorable 11-year-old daughter and a part-time career creating designs for her father’s venerable clothing company. Her best friend, Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), leads another enviable life – a happily single editor of a prominent fashion magazine, a possessor of a huge closet of designer clothes and a revered arbiter of taste and style poised on New York’s cutting edge. But when Mary’s husband enters into an affair with Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes), a sultry ‘spritzer girl’ lurking behind the Saks Fifth Avenue perfume counter, all hell breaks loose. Mary and Sylvie’s relationship is tested to the breaking point while their tight-knit circle of friends, including mega-mommy Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) and author Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett-Smith), all start to question their own friendships and romantic relationships as well.
I have a whole litany of complaints about this film, and I could easily write multiple pages on what I disliked about “The Women.” However, I will assume that if you’re reading this review, you probably want to know whether this film is appropriate for pre-teen and teen girls. Based upon Dove’s standards for language and sexual content, we cannot recommend “The Women” for family viewing, even for ages twelve and older.
I believe “The Women” is supposed to be about female friendship. What it is actually about is a certain lifestyle, one that most people cannot relate to. The movie centers around a group of upper-crust New Yorkers get manicures and go shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue. There is some attempt to weave a story line into a seemingly endless sequence of scenes portraying shopping, pampering, gossiping and socializing. But not surprisingly, that attempt fails pretty miserably, and consequently the 114 minutes drag on agonizingly.
Most of the jokes fall completely flat, because their subject matter just isn’t funny. For example, a 60 year old woman in great pain, with her face wrapped in bandages after plastic surgery because she wants to look younger isn’t funny, it’s sad. The main characters are clearly obsessed with appearances – looking young and beautiful and owning luxurious clothes, shoes, handbags, cars, and the list goes on. Product placement is rampant throughout the film; half the movie feels like an advertisement for various items, most notably skincare products, Lexus automobiles, and Louis Vuitton handbags.
The irony is that one character’s pre-teen daughter talks about her own obsession with her appearance, how she wants to look like the models in magazines, and even says that she smokes cigarettes to curb her appetite. The mom seems somewhat dismayed by this, but not nearly as much as she should be. That same mother then designs her own line of clothing, and her smiling daughter attends the fashion show and watches extremely thin models saunter up and down the catwalk in her mother’s dresses. The filmmakers treat the issues of the pre-teen girl’s feelings lightly, and then seem to dismiss them altogether as being irrelevant – not my idea of a good film for or about women. Due to the aforementioned content issues, we are unable to award this film our Dove “Family-Approved” Seal.