Once Broken In, "Shoes" Fit Fine
- Christian Hamaker Contributing Film and Culture Writer
- 2005 7 Oct
Release Date: October 7, 2005
Rating: PG-13 (thematic material, language and some sexual content)
Run Time: 130 min.
Director: Curtis Hanson
Actors: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Brooke Smith
“In Her Shoes,” a story of the strains and constraints of family relationships, asks us to root for familial happiness and the virtues of responsibility and acceptance, while overlooking other ideals such as sexual morality. On those terms, the movie mostly succeeds, but the total package, even with a standout performance from Cameron Diaz, is less substantial than it might otherwise have been.
Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose (Toni Collette) play sisters from different worlds. Maggie, who can get a date at the drop of a hat, can’t hold down a job. Rose works feverishly but has little social life, compensating for her deficiencies by expanding her ever-growing collection of shoes.
After Maggie beds Rose’s boyfriend, the sisters part way. Maggie, low on cash and looking to sponge off yet another friend or relative, heads to Florida to surprise Ella, the grandmother she barely knows (Shirley MacLaine), while Rose quits her corporate job and re-evaluates her life. The separate tracks lead to good results for both sisters: Grandmom, wise to Maggie’s schemes, encourages Maggie to serve the needs of someone other than herself, while Rose slowly yields to the romantic advances of a former co-worker.
Through the machinations of their grandmother and other friends in the retirement community, the two sisters eventually reconnect and confront the childhood trauma that forever altered their relationship and led, unbeknownst to them, to a rift between their father and grandmother.
Although Rose is the more responsible of the two sisters, viewers first see her in bed with another man, making it difficult to think too highly of her character. Maggie’s privileged attitude – based on little besides her good looks – makes her even less admirable. But MacLaine’s character – far from perfect, but wise with age – gives the film a semblance of balance, offsetting the self-centered lives of the sisters.
Ella’s confession that she remained a virgin until her wedding night might easily be dismissed by younger viewers as the quaint notion of someone from an earlier generation, but coming from a character whose marriage was fulfilling, it subtly reinforces the idea that virtue and wisdom go hand in hand. Ella, however, has other regrets about her past, and never holds herself out as a moral example, yet her own budding romance is played sweetly, without the coarse humor and cheap laughs that, in an effort to bring in the younger movie-going audience, infect other films featuring older characters.
Rose’s new relationship, charming at first, goes too far before the characters make a firm commitment to one another, and the film’s unsympathetic depiction of the sisters’ stepmother doesn’t excuse the siblings' harsh language directed toward her. But a gentle subplot involving Maggie’s growing friendship with a bed-ridden former professor compensates for those missteps, adding a deeply touching dimension to a story whose strength isn’t merely in the bond between the sisters, but in the warm lessons learned across three generations of one family.
The restoration of those broken relationships is enough to break down the defenses of the most hardened viewer, leaving a warm glow after the film’s chilly start.
AUDIENCE: Older teens and up
- Language/Profanity: “S--t,” “vagina,” “tramp,” “dammit,” “hell” “G-d d--n” “s--t for brains” Lord’s name taken in vain; the sisters speak disrespectfully to their step-mother
- Drugs/Alcohol: Maggie gets drunk, throws up; Ella and friends drink Cosmopolitans
- Sex/Nudity: As the opening credits roll, Maggie has sex at her high-school reunion; Rose, in voiceover, explains her situation as she wakes up in bed, next to her lover; Maggie’s walks around her apartment in her underwear; Maggie has sex in her sister’s apartment, then, feeling depressed, asks her partner for “the going rate” of $200; Maggie wears a skimpy bikini to a pool and unties her top while sunbathing; a racy scene from a romance novel is read aloud; Rose sleeps with a second lover; Ella and friends watch an episode of “Sex in the City”; Maggie encourages her grandmother to “jump” another man; Ella mentions her first sexual experience
- Violence: Maggie is nearly sexually assaulted in a car lot but escapes; mental-health issues and self-inflicted violence are discussed; Rose thrusts a knife at her stepmom
- Crime: Maggie steals money and valuables from lovers, relatives; Maggie defaces a restaurant sign
- Religion: A character joins Jews for Jesus, but this is used as a punch line; an interfaith wedding