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September 12, 2008 |

By Dustin Rowles | Film | September 12, 2008 |

I am in a pickle, ladies and gentlemen. One of those real Vlassic motherfuckers that you discover in the back of your fridge, pruned and shriveled by a three-year bath in some rank-ass vinegar. I am stuck between a rock and a saline implant. Damned if I do, fucked if I don’t. This is some real Joseph Heller shit here, folks.

See: Three weeks ago, this review would’ve been simple. I’d have suffered through two hours of chick-centered hideosity; I’d have come home; sat down; and puked up all the adjective, real and made-up, floating around in my swollen brain during the experience (words like, hideosity, for instance).

But the world has changed in three weeks. Suddenly, we’re not allowed to criticize women. We’re not even allowed to raise substantive questions about women. I mean, at first, I thought we in the media weren’t allowed to attack women personally, in which case I would’ve censored myself before commenting on the fact that Meg Ryan looks as though she swallowed a blowfish that exploded in her cheeks. I might have made mention of how rich it was that, in the movie, she actually had a few lines where her character poked fun at women with bad facelifts. But apparently, pointing out a woman’s hypocrisy is taboo — the right of a woman to make her own decisions, even ones that are bad for the country her face, is sacrosanct and not up for debate (except when it comes to abortion, of course. Women shouldn’t have a choice in that matter — we should only allow men in robes appointed by other men make those decisions). Or I might have said something about how the sight of Debra Messing makes my toenails retract, or that watching her attempt to act was like watching a random governor of a state with 13 people and a few caribou answer questions about foreign policy. Awkward and uncomfortable, to say the least.

But that stuff is off limits. And now I’m realizing that you can actually get in hot water for questioning a woman’s intelligence, or for questioning the content of her statements. And here I am stuck reviewing a movie called The Women. Where the fuck does that leave me? Obviously, if I call it like I see it, I’m going to be accused of being a sexist. You look over on Rotten Tomatoes right now, and you’ll notice that The Women only has a 10 percent approval rating. Why? Obviously, because 90 percent of movie critics are misogynistic pigs.

Oh shit, did I say pig? Sorry.

Fortunately, I do have an out. Not a big one, mind you. But I have an out. No no … it’s not that The Women is any damn good. Brother, please. It’s cinematic pus on the end of an ass pimple. No. It’s that, in this new world order of ours, where a woman should be shielded from questioning by male handlers and hidden away at all times (except to occasionally look pretty and deliver scripted speeches from a teleprompter), The Women actually jibes with how were supposed to view women in September of 2008 (hand it to the G.O.P., huh? Only a Republican could nominate a woman to be the second most powerful person in the United States and still set back women’s rights two decades). Because the women in The Women loooove to shop; they love handbags, and having babies, and wearing frilly things, and discussing their feelings over brightly colored alcoholic beverages. We live in a Sex and the City world now, folks. A woman can go out and do anything she wants, so long as we understand that all of her motivations actually driven by men.

Such is the case in The Women, a remake of a 1939 classic (I won’t mention that the original, directed by a man — George Cukor — was not only superior, but felt more modern; that might be perceived as a slight against women). Meg Ryan plays Mary Haines, mother, wife, and career girl. Her life, however, is turned topsy turvy when she discovers — while getting a manicure after doing some very PTA-ish things (nominate her!)— that her husband is having an affair. With the spritzer girl at Saks (Eva Mendes), of all people.

At first, she refuses to confront her husband about the adultery, choosing instead to play doormat to his boots in the hopes that the whole thing will blow over. The affair, however, prompts Mary to do a little self-reflection, which she does with the assistance of her three female friends, Sylvia (Annette Benning), an editor for a fashion magazine who ultimately would rather quit her job rather than screw over her sisterhood; Edie (Debra Messing), a woman who insists on having babies until she finally has a boy; and Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith), a sassy black lesbian (the filmmakers apparently decided that, as long as they were conforming to gender stereotypes, they may as well go ahead and conform to racial ones, too). Mary is also having some difficulty with her teenage daughter, who is upset because her mother is too solipsistic. [*Spoiler*] Eventually, however, Mary manages to work through her problems by designing dresses and, ultimately, taking back her philandering husband (female-centric comedies have to have happy endings, and a happy ending is impossible unless the man and woman get back together. Natch). [*End Spoiler*]

The conceit in The Women is that there aren’t actually any men in the movie — not a single one in a single frame (save for the obvious ending). The irony, however, is that you can feel the presence of a man off screen for most of the film (in fact, you feel like you know the man you don’t see even better than some of the women you do see), and — despite his absence — the plot revolves around him. The other irony is that the only women in the film that aren’t caricatures are the old-school ones (Cloris Leachman and Candace Bergman, both of whom could shit Palin bricks while applying their lipstick in the morning), who bring some occasional dimensionality to The Women and remind you of better times (say, August 2008).

But, please: I don’t want you to think that the gendered, 1950s humor in The Women, or the female stereotypes are a bad thing. The females in The Women are empowered, and by empowered, I mean completely self-involved, vapid, shallow, and unsympathetic, the sort of women who make Carrie Bradshaw look like Gloria fucking Steinem. But as a man, I feel I have a duty to protect the movie from criticism, because a woman should not be called upon to answer for herself. She should just stand there and look pretty. If it’s good enough for a vice-presidential nominee, it’s good enough for the cast and director of The Women.

Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives in Portland, Maine. You can reach him via email, or leave a comment below.

Lipstick on a Turd

The Women / Dustin Rowles

Film | September 12, 2008 |

Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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