In Dianne English’s re-adaptation of The Women, Meg Ryan comes out of obscurity and plays Mary Haines. Mary is praised by her circle of rich, Long Island housewives even if her hair looks like that of a drowned rat and she dresses like her window curtains. Her husband, Stephen, is cheating on her and her friends Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith) are all so surprised. Cue a more forced character arc than the original, her ‘I’ll change myself in hopes of getting him back’ is implicitly placing blame on Mary for Stephen’s indiscretion with a girl behind the perfume counter, Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes). This material has already been remade before with the 1956 film The Opposite Sex starring the insufferable June Allyson. Films about the rich were both a fantasy and a target for satire but today it just seems out of touch, upper-class snobbery falling flat in front of contemporary, more cynical audiences.
Despite my strong words above, I can see some things where this remake excels. The original has Mary’s declaration along the words of ‘In [her mother’s generation], women were chattel. Today we’re equals.’ She stays a trophy wife from beginning to end. It would be easy to fall towards Crystal’s methods by pretending to learn how to bake like a fetishized housewife, but in the remake, Mary is her own woman, actually getting her own career, her seduction is independence instead of subservience. Speaking of careers, this film also makes a bigger deal about the falling out between Mary and her best friend Sylvia Fowler (Annette Bening). It allows us to see Sylvia’s side as well as her clichéd struggle between her friendship and career, betraying the former to keep the latter intact. Slyvia inadvertently hijacks the story and even gets Mary’s daughter’s friendship because of her more realistic take on life.
Bette Midler is also in this movie. I’ve always been on her side in the Bette versus Barbra debate, although that changed in recent years with discovering Barbra’s work in Funny Girl and her winning streak in the 70’s while Bette is doing indie films with Helen Hunt that I nor many people have not seen. But all it needs to take me back is watching her character smoke pot with Mary. She looks good and she doesn’t overdo her lines, saying them like she’s experienced love and loss without them scarring her. If only the movie was two hours of female stoners, I would have paid to see that.
When Harry Met Sally begins with college age Harry (Billy Crystal) and Sally (Meg Ryan) talking about their unrefined views about Everybody Goes to Rick’s while their wigs are trying not to move. They eventually meet again twice and grow up to be more experienced – no, Harry becomes borderline jaded – when it comes to love, the two of them are a healthy mix of happy and sad whether they’re together or apart. And Sally infamous fakes the second best female orgasm ever. Did I miss anything else?
This movie is what would happen if characters in a Woody Allen movie didn’t read books, making screenwriter Nora Ephron pretty much ahead of her time. But that’s kind of unfair, right? Harry and Sally like movies and musicals. They’ve gone to the same university in Chicago, and so, we assume, do their friends. Even if some of them do have bad taste in stupid, wagon wheel Roy Rogers garage sale coffee tables.
‘I want you to know…that I will never want that wagon wheel coffee table.’
I worship the ground that Carrie Fisher walks on. When is she coming back to Toronto? Why is she not the more famous one in this trio?
Then Harry and Sally have breakup sex, he gets a little stalker-y, but if an ex-boyfriend ever sang on my voice mail, I’ll be tempted to answer the phone. Although Harry gets points off for wearing those white running shoes. What were the 80’s and early 90’s thinking? Anyway, I can’t wait for the sequel!