In Her Shoes(Fox Home Entertainment, 1.31.2006)
At first glance, Curtis Hanson's In Her Shoes can easily be viewed as yet another by-the-numbers, Hallmark-ian rom-dram-com of the month. Yet once you give it more than five to ten minutes of your time, it becomes apparent that -- while this certainly isn't a pioneering effort of originality -- this film leads the pack of "those types" of films. You know, those types (not to give it a pejorative spin). It can get kinda schmaltzy at times and the whole thing wraps up rather conveniently, but there's plenty of spice in the mix as well. For each character, there's a long journey from despair to delight, even if that road gets a tad mushy from time to time.
In addition to the spice and such, the film also boasts top-notch, fairly believable performances from the entire cast, young and old. Cameron Diaz delivers a sexy (as usual, unless you count Being John Malkovich), fortunately toned-down performance as Maggie, all around hottie/party animal/narcissist sister to the less than dazzling Rose, who's played wonderfully by Toni Collette (she really could've/should've been nominated for some kind of golden statue for this performance). Rounding out the triple threat female cast is none other than Shirley MacLaine, who plays the estranged grandmother of the two girls with commendable subtlety.
The acting, along with everything else that works in the film, owes a lot to the direction. Hanson's crafty touch is evident throughout the film. Even if the final result is ultimately kitschy, it's fluffed to perfection. Hanson has a real knack for directing adaptations of novels and it's refreshing to see him broaden his horizons with a female-centered film. In Her Shoes has the same breezy-but-with-substance feel as Wonder Boys, an earlier novel-to-film success from Hanson.
I'll admit that I'm a fan of Hanson (not the band) and therefore may be a splash biased. But still, I was never really into 8 Mile, which had more in common with The Karate Kid than the hard knock life of Eminem. And come on, how hardcore can a guy be when he's dating, ugh, Britney Murphy?
Of course, Hanson -- he should just go by Hanson from now on -- shouldn't take all the credit. The adapted screenplay by Erin Brockovich scribe Susannah Grant is clever and chock full of wit. Dialogue-heavy films like this (and this is the case with several previous Hanson films) have a lot of weight to carry in terms of the writing and how well it suits the characters, actors, and narrative. This isn't T2...or D2 for that matter (believe me, you don't want to know what D2 is). The film relies almost entirely on character chemistry, which in turn relies almost entirely on the writing. Luckily, Hanson is a writer's director and the two forces compliment one another greatly.
The 2.35:1 transfer looks terrific: colors are perfect, as is the sharpness (aside from some intentional grain, here and there) and overall depth of the image. Audio in 5.1 does the film justice and the dialogue is absolutely crystal clear. Most of the film is front channel only, but the score does have some good multi-speaker range.
Now for the most disappointing aspect of the disc: the lack of extras (not to mention that incessantly annoying, forced anti-piracy ad before the main menu). In all fairness, there's a 16-minute discussion of the book/screenplay/film that has plenty of candid moments with the cast and crew. There's good talk from Hanson and Grant, as well as Diaz, Collette, MacLaine, and Mark Feuerstein.
There are two other featurettes on the disc. One is an 8-minute fluff piece on the casting of Honeybun. They searched far and wide and finally found the perfect mutt, appropriately named Hamlet. The second featurette lasts just over ten minutes and centers on the non-professional actors who played the senior folks in the film. They share some funny anecdotes about the making of the film, but it really is quite frustrating having such arbitrary extras on such a barebones release.
I would trade every one of these extras for just one audio commentary with Hanson. I'd even settle for a commentary with the Hanson brothers. C'mon Criterion, what are you guys doing all day? Do we really need any more Bresson DVDs? Put out a disc with some Hanson-on-Hanson action.
Lovely performances, lovely direction, lovely script, lovely novel. Too bad the same can't be said for this disc. Oh yeah, there's one more extra feature on the DVD. Lucky for all of us Hanson fans, Fox really knows how to treat us right. We get a sneak peek of the filming of Lindsay Lohan's super-duper-cool new film, Just My Luck. What a disturbing marketing choice. -- Neil Karassik