Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We Can't Wait #14 The Women

Directed by Diane English (Murphy Brown) her feature debut
Starring The Bening (excuse me, who else matters?)
Synopsis A married woman, her husbands mistress, and their catty group of friends get into it
Brought to you by Picturehouse + years and years of development (i.e. casting rumors for decades)
Expected Release Date October 16th, 2008

Nathaniel: Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither was the remake of this classic 30s melodramedy (word?) which has been on Hollywood's "to do" list for at least ten years. Wasn't it going to be Meg Ryan vs. Julia Roberts in the mid 90s? The original film was a hilarious rewatchable chatfest among a group of women including a betrayed wife (Norma Shearer -yes!) and the vamp stealing her husband away (Joan Crawford -"boo hiss" in the good way) and their various friends and frenemies. The big cast was a "who's who" of 1930s cinema, women only! If you need a modern comparison you'll have to think of the very retro French musical comedy 8 Women by François Ozon. Will the remake spoil the fun by throwing a man or two in front of the camera? Let's hope not.


Norma Shearer = Meg Ryan
Rosalind Russell = Annette Bening
Joan Crawford = Eva Mendes
Paulette Godard =Jada Pinkett-Smith
Mary Boland = Bette Midler
Phyllis Povah = Debra Messing
Florence Nash = Carrie Fisher
Joan Fontaine, Marjorie Main, Ruth Hussey = somebody somebody and somebody, maybe Cloris Leachman, Candice Bergen, and Debi Mazar?

The list goes on. I just threw up a little from all the blasphemy. And then got excited again from the actressing. HELP ME!

Gabriel: I watched the original again the other day -- it seems to be on Turner Classic Movies every weekend (must be very popular) -- and was struck by three major thoughts regarding the remake (which I'm very excited about). First was the matchup you didn't list among your original-to-now comparisons, the directors: George Cukor = Diane English. Cukor was a living legend and one of the art form's best; English has never directed in Hollywood, and is best known for a long-dead sitcom (Murphy Brown). While that's not to say that she can't do this piece, it makes me nervous... especially when you consider the screen-time balancing act that Cukor pulled off.

The second thought: the original hinges upon the luminous freshness of Norma Shearer, who in my opinion makes the entire piece work by covering fragile plot points with bravura acting. Can Meg Ryan do to the same? Has she ever been that kind of actress in the first place? (And does anyone still think of her as a big star? I don't see even a moderate hit on her resume since Kate and Leopold seven years ago, and she had Hugh Jackman doing the heavy lifting for her there.)


My last thought: it's a little dated. I'm not saying vicious divorces don't happen in 2008, or that circles of friends don't still sometimes turn into circular firing squads. But as dramatic fodder, the idea of women clawing nastily and fighting over their philandering husbands hasn't been a part of mainstream entertainment since Dynasty, and even then it was barely-concealed camp and soap opera. Can The Women make divorce fun again?

Joe: Box-office-wise, I agree with Gabriel that this is going to be a tough sell, but I'm holding out hope that Meg Ryan still has that orgasm-faking stuff when it comes to comedy. In truth, my reservations for this film have reservations, I'm that concerned. The cast seems like such a hodgepodge -- I love the colorblind casting but wish it wasn't Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett-Xenu specifically. I've seen nothing out of them in their careers that suggests they can pull this kind of comedy off. Weirdly, besides Annette Bening and Bette Midler (who is all but guaranteed a "Best Performance By A Drag Queen" nomination next year), the one person who I think fits the material best is Debra Messing. I wish Diane English well, but I can more easily see this becoming a disaster than a success.

MaryAnn: Oh, god, this is more on my "dreading" list than my "psyched for" one. Debra Messing *and* Meg Ryan in the same movie? Just shoot me now.

Nathaniel: The Bening is not enough to compensate? The Bening will not be pleased to hear this.

MaryAnn: I love the Bening, and I actually think Mendes has a lot of talent and charisma that has not been fully tapped yet. But Messing is like chalk on a board to me.

Glenn: I'm more excited for The Women BECAUSE it seems like such a high-wire act. That cast IS a hodgepodge (although any chance to see Jada Pinkett-Smith and Debi Mazar on screen, I'll take), the director IS untested and so on. I, unlike the rest of you guys it seems, have not seen the original film that this is based on - cry for me, Argentina, it's not out on DVD here - but the prospect of this movie succeeding is enough to make me excited than the more likely notion that it will fail.

Nathaniel: Divided opinions about its ticket-selling potential and the cast.

This one's for the readers: Do you consider this blasphemy? And if so are you just anti-remake in general? Have you obeyed any of my many demands that you watch the original? And if not, what do I have to do to make you fall for the great Norma Shearer, the First Lady of MGM?

the countdown
#4 Milk / #5 Blindness / # 6 Doubt / #7 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button / #8 Revolutionary Road / #9 The Dark Knight / #10 Sex & The City: The Movie / #11 The Lovely Bones / #12 Wall-E / #13 Stop-Loss / #14 The Women / #15 Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince / Introduction / Orphans
*

32 comments:

Y Kant Goran Rite said...

Glenn, it's definitely out on DVD - I even own a copy. And if you'd seen the original, you would be afraid of what's obviously a disaster in post-production. Like every decent human being, I adore Bening. I also love Cloris Leachman and I even like Grace Messing (at least in sitcoms), but the rest? Let's not.

Ron said...

Is it just me, or does Debra Messing not look so much like Rosalind Russell? It would have been a hoot had she been cast as Sylvia Fowler. When I watched the original, I couldn't get over how much of Messing I saw in Russell. Then again, Bening would most likely be able to bring so much more to the character. Is a Best Supporting Actress nom likely?

ryansumera said...

i hope they could've put in a little judy davis so that i might reconsider

Anonymous said...

I'm sure that the Carrie Fisher and Cloris Leachman parts will be brilliant. Those two ladies strive in small comedic parts.

NATHANIEL R said...

ryan, good call. hadn't even thought of that but Judy Davis would definitely know how to stylize this material. I'm not worried about Bening but some of them don't seem particularly adept at the unique demands of this type of material

JS said...

Bette Midler! She's all that matters. I need something redeeming after going through And Then She Found Me. So to the rest of the hags, GET OUT OF BETTE'S WAY!

Please? :(

~from a kid who was raised by his parents and Beaches

Catherine said...

I'm sort of dreading this, not because I'm anti-remake but because I don't know how they can transpose this to a modern-day setting, keeping the bitchiness but not degenerating into vulgarity.

I have to admit I know diddly squat about "The Bening". I think the only thing I've seen her in was American Beauty, so my mental image of her consists of "I. WILL. sell. THIS. house. TODAY!" on a loop. I'm going to trust you guys and assume she'll be amazing, but Roz Russell is so sharp and amazing in that film...

The Scott Blog said...

OMG, the cast has me soooooo excited!

Pedro Henrique said...

Nice space, i'am brazilian and I found this very cool post, congratulations! Sorry, about the english!!!

Bye!!!

JA said...

I just saw the original The Women for the first time last year, and... I didn't like it. It's dated in the worst ways - i.e. all the women were shrews I got tired of listening to them go on and on and ON about men... there didn't need to be any actual physical men in the movie because it was the only topic of conversation these twits could think up. The one exception was Joan Crawford who was wonderful, and I so wanted her to set fire to the entire set like Gong Li in Memoirs of a Geisha and take the whole place with her as she left.

steve said...

Another one I have next to zero interest in.

The cast does nothing for me.

I'm generally agnostic about Bening - the only time I felt the magic was in American Beauty.

I used to love Meg Ryan, but she hasn't done anything worthwhile in a decade, at least.

steve said...

Ooh, I just remembered that Ryan did do In the Cut. Which was awesome. But still, the director of Murphy Brown is no Jane Campion.

Peter said...

I saw the original theatrically back in the early 70s. Kind of fun, but not a favorite. If someone has to make a remake, how about Breakfast at Tiffany's that actually resembles the book.

James Henry said...

I was excited for this project when I first heard about it, because I absolutely love the original. But what has me more excited than anything is Bette Midler as the Countess DeLave! She is so perfect for this role and this movie and I hope she gets a ton of attention.

My only reservations about the casting would be Eva Mendes (I'm not really that familiar with her work, so she could be amazing) and Jada Pinkett-Smith. I love her and think she's an especially amazing actress- Bamboozled anyone?- but can she do comedy like this? Plus, she's taking on my favorite of the supporting roles- Miriam Aarons- played so superbly by the always underrated Paulette Goddard in the original. Can she nail the "Yippe ki yay, Crystal" line as well as Goddard?

ryansumera said...

people, let's be honest the midler part could go either way (what woman want or stepford wives?) and as for fisher, i'd be more interested, really, if she was writing it. she's never really funny if she is not playing herself.

Sam said...

I have such reservations about this movie! I've always felt that The Women is one of those movies that should never be remade since the original was so perfect. That sort of magic cannot be recreated.

But, I do love Benning and have no qualms about her. I can't wait to see Bette chanting "L'amour, L'amour" and stealing every scene. I'm pleased about Cloris Leachman as the maid and think Messing will be great. Bergen, Fisher, all terrific.

But I have a hard time seeing Meg Ryan exhibit the sort of moral authority that Norma Shearer had. Then there's Eva Mendes! I have nothing against her, but Joan Crawford was in top form, sexy and relaxed, harsh and sympathetic at once and I don't see Eva pulling that off.

Meg and Eva are the two key characters and if they don't carry it off, Benning et al cannot possibly do enough heavy lifting to make it all work.

The Liz said...

I think that, back in the day, Meg Ryan was a phenominal comic actress. She had such force on screen. If you watch, "When Harry Met Sally," she has such control and can convey so much with the slightest movement in her face. She's a pleasure to watch.

HOWEVER, since starting to age, she's had so much collagen and botox pumped into her face that I wonder if it's even mobil anymore. How can she carry a film if she can't even blink? I tend to find cosmetic surgery distracting, and I fear that I'll spend the whole movie thinking to myself "Why the hell can't she move her eyebrows" instead of enjoying the plot.

Julia said...

I'm excited about it, although I raise an eyebrow about Eva Mendes (not bad in prior works, but not fantastic). I love the Bening, and I sat through "Running with Scissors" recently to get a glimpse of the Bening awesomeness.

I think my expectations are along the lines of a watchable movie, with some fantastic moments within.

NATHANIEL R said...

julia probably you have the right sized expectations.

i'm trying to lower mine even further and just think of it as a chance to gaze upon The Bening. Which, you know, I take whenever I can get.

The Liz agreed on Meg... she has great work behind her no matter what people say (the media loves to rewrite history once a star falters but it's not like she wasn't one of the best comic actresses at the time)

Anonymous said...

Bening thinks she's capable to top Rosalind Russell? I'd rather to see The Reaping 2, with Swank and Zellweger together.

-cal roth

NATHANIEL R said...

fighting words.

you sure you wanna piss The Bening off?

roscoecashjr said...

I watched Eva Mendes in a Will Smith movie (Hitch? Hutch? Fudge?) on an airplane, without my earbuds in, and I have to say that the lady was an embarrassment to watch. Muggy, hammy, not impressive (not so sexy, either). But maybe Diane English can tap into that shallow well of comedic talent and turn it into some kind of Crawfordesque camp-homage. Otherwise, I think Ms. Annette Bening is going to clean the floor with her.

Ric said...

I can wait to see this one ... the original is totally dated, so I'm sure they will give this new one an updated look and storyline.

The new cast is borrrring... except for Bette Cloris and possibly Carrie.

CanadianKen said...

I have mixed feelings about the remake. To begin with,I think the original's a very mixed bag. And I'm assuming the new version has a present-day setting. Which I suspect will render the property's dated qualities even more conspicuous. At the same time, who doesn't want to see a screenful of glamorous, interesting actresses jostling for attention?
I have no problems at all with Ryan or Bening. Although i think Diane Lane could've handled either role with aplomb. Where Mary's concerned, she's certainly capable of projecting that moral authority you mentioned. Plus she'd be more than up for some devastating Sylvia Fowler line-readings. And even if she's a little old for the part now - I suspect she could deliver a slam dunk in the Joan Crawford role too.
If I recall correctly, Rosalind Russell's initial instincts were to play Sylvia on a much more nuanced and realistic level. But Cukor convinced her to go the broader than broad route. The results seem to have pleased audiences. But I still think Roz should have stuck to her guns. Dolores Gray got the part just right in the (otherwise atrocious) '57 remake "The Opposite Sex". And I hope Bening takes the role in that same direction. But wherever she takes it, I suspect the part is pretty safe in her hands.
I like Bette Midler as much as the next guy. But the Countess role is neither big nor especially interesting. Mary Boland dithered effectively enough. But it'll probably just be easier for Midler to haul out some overly familiar schtick than actually try to build a legitimate performance out of such a slight part.
I agree that Joan Crawford nailed the Crystal character in '39. Eva Mendes? Yawn. I'd say Lindsay Lohan would be perfect. She's talented. And I can see her coming up with a Crystal that's a memorably coarse, gleaming, greedy, sexy, ruthless husband snatcher. Ready - at the drop of a hatpin - for an all-out cagefight. She'd have rocked it.

Carl said...

I wish that Hollywood was not the desperately risk-averse place it seems to have become, giving us sequels and remakes instead of new material and original voices. I cannot get excited about "The Women" when it means that folks like Bening, et al, could have been doing something fresh instead.

Why fix it? Was it broken?

Rural Juror said...

This movie looks tragic. So much washed up plastic surgery in one place

NATHANIEL R said...

carl ... when it comes to risk aversion. the strange thing is how non risky is this really? I mean the likeliest people to remember the original are also the likeliest people to be offended at it being remade, aren't they?

it's strange to me that remakes are considered "safe" but i guess they do have a built in name recognition... even if its to just a small degree

Anonymous said...

I don't know, maybe nervous, but I'm scarred about this proyect... Like high profile expectations in Dreamgirls, Atonement, Fur...

C. Jerry Kutner said...

There was also a 1977 version by R.W. Fassbinder, Women in New York/Frauen in New York, starring two of my favorite Fassbinder actresses, Margit Carstensen (The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant) in the Rosalind Russell role, and Barbara Sukowa (Lola) in the Joan Crawford role.

As far as I know, it's never been released over here, and is therefore at the top of my list of Fassbinder projects I need to see.

par3182 said...

i'm with mary ann - shoot me now

Kamikaze Camel said...

Goran, I've never seen it anywhere. Not in shops, not in rental stores, not online, not on Quickflix. Where did you find it?

Also, I like that this is a flip on some of 2007's films which were, for the most part, all male.

Beau said...

I adore the Messing, personally. Highly-stylized comedy has always been her bag, and she can deliver here no prob.

The one I'm worried about, on the other hand, is Mendes. It's partially due to the damned 'Ghost Rider' trailers I had to endure with what looked like some of the worst acting this side of Lucas films, (i.e. big green screen = Nicholas Cage's head on fire.)

And even that gem didn't make her emote. If she can pull off the vampiness, more power to her. But she's highly suspect to waste this role, I fear.

And yes, LOHAN would've been perfect here.