While this was supposed to be a re-make, it seems like cinematic sacrilege to compare Diane English’s disappointing contemporary drivel with director George Cukor’s hilarious “The Women” (1939), adapted by Anita Loos from Clare Boothe’s play and starring Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell and Norma Shearer.
Beginning with a Manhattan montage of women’s shoes, evocative of “Sex and the City,” this update revolves around privileged Connecticut socialite, Mary Haines (Meg Ryan), whose Wall Street whiz husband of 13 years is cheating on her with a sexy strumpet, Crystal (Eva Mendes), the “spritzer girl” behind the perfume counter at Saks Fifth Avenue: “There’s a word for a woman like that–and it’s rarely used outside of a kennel.” (But that’s a clever line borrowed from the original when the word ‘bitch’ was forbidden.)
Mary’s best friend, magazine editor Sylvie (Annette Bening), is the first to discover his infidelity from a gossipy Saks manicurist. Backstabbing Sylvie tells pregnant Edie (Debra Messing), who blurts to lesbian Alex (Jada Pinkett Smith). Eventually Mary finds out and consults her worldly-wise mother (Candice Bergen).
Diane English (“Murphy Brown”) maintains the clever conceit of all-female cast, including background ‘extras,’ but she’s way out of her element here â€“ even with cameos from Bette Midler and Carrie Fisher – and watching Meg Ryan chow down on a stick of butter dipped in cocoa powder and milk during a pivotal revelatory scene is disgusting. Plus there’s something creepily bizarre when these obviously Botox-ed actresses quip about plastic surgery. Even the feminist context of empowerment seems muddled, asserting that “in order to maintain individuality” a woman must juggle career, marriage and family, a daunting task for anyone. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Women” is a thudding 3. Female friendship deserves better.