I consider myself lucky to have a sister. And I hope she feels the same way, even though we get on each other’s nerves sometimes. But, thankfully, we don’t annoy one another to the extent the siblings played by Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette do in the movie In Her Shoes. Yes, in many respects, we’re opposites like these two women; we’ve also had our big arguments and disappointments because of differing beliefs and lifestyle. Still, we’ve never reached a point where reconciliation seemed impossible, which is the dire situation faced by these characters at the beginning of In Her Shoes.
Maggie (Diaz) and Rose (Collette) are as different as fire and ice. And yet, it’s obvious they were very close while growing up. They had to be. Their mother died in a car crash when they were young children, and their father (Ken Howard) married again -- to an unsympathetic woman (Candice Azzara) with a spoiled daughter of her own. As adults, Maggie is the wayward one. She’s promiscuous, flighty, irresponsible -- and drop dead gorgeous. Rose, on the other hand, has become a successful New York lawyer, works all the time -- and looks like the world’s top candidate for a fashion makeover. Ironically, she collects shoes but never wears them.
The breaking point comes when Maggie sleeps with a man who’s shown an interest in Rose, and in Rose’s apartment to boot. A “no no” for any sister, right? Maggie is unemployed, but Rose can’t stand being taken advantage of any longer, so she kicks her out. Fortunately, Maggie discovers that she and Rose have a grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) living in a retirement community in Miami. When Maggie finds her way to her grandmother, this previously joyless movie begins to come alive. MacLaine’s no-nonsense “Ella” adds class to the proceedings as she becomes the catalyst for wonderful changes in Maggie’s character.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Rose undergoes changes of her own. She starts to enjoy life, takes time for herself, and even gets engaged to a good-natured former colleague (Mark Feuerstein) who wines and dines her with perseverance and humor.
Separated by thousands of miles, Rose and Maggie can’t help feeling incomplete without each other. Watching their journey back to each other emerges as the highlight of In Her Shoes. However, I’m convinced this whole story would have fallen apart without the brilliant performances of Diaz (Charilie’s Angels), Collette (Connie and Carla) and MacLaine. Their emotions, moods and changing behavior never hit a false note for the characters they play. MacLaine, in particular, surprised me with her sensitive, understated interpretation of the grandmother -- probably because I’m used to seeing her in more flamboyant roles in films like Carolina and Bewitched.
Directed by Curtis Hanson (Wonder Boys) from Susannah Grant’s (Erin Brockovich) adaptation of Jennifer Weiner’s novel, In Her Shoes boasts an impressive plot structure with sequences alternating between a cold and gray-looking New York City and a warm, colorful Miami. The NYC Chamber of Commerce might object, but I think this cinematic approach was needed to set contrasting tones for these scenes.
Most important of all, In Her Shoes performs a minor miracle by walking a fine line between emphasizing “nobody’s perfect” and preaching “everyone should be a better person.” Finally, I have to admit this is the first movie since Twin Sisters (a 2003 Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Language Film) to make me tear up at the end. Schmaltzy? Sure, but it’s darn good schmaltz.
(Released by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and rated “PG-13” for thematic material, language and some sexual content.)
This review is dedicated to Ruella Anderson, my dear sister.