CINEMA SIGNALS

. "What Women Want"

A fantasy-comedy-love story in which a man with the emotional development of an adolescent is given the gift of being able to hear women's thoughts. The idea behind this notion, written and directed by women, is that this would have a maturing effect on the most chauvinistic of men -- especially as the women's thoughts are so channeled and contrived to produce such an effect. The deck is definitely stacked. Some of the women are, as well, you pig.

Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is that character as writer-director Nancy Myers devotes the first act to convincing us of what a gross womanizing oinker he is before, that is, the accident that granted him his special powers. His ex-wife remarries; his 15-year old daughter expresses her disdain for him by calling him Nicky; his female co-workers at his ad agency hold him in equally low esteem and, coup-de-grace, because the agency is trying to land a female oriented account and because everyone knows how out-to-lunch he is with feninine sensitivities, his boss hires Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt, again) for the task and for the position he covets. He's not pleased.

When he first acquires his special ability, he hates it. He can barely take the realization of what women really think of him, dispelling all his ego-supporting myths. He attempts to lose the gift by recreating the accident, an electrical short-circuit. The experiment fails and he consults his therapist (an uncredited Bette Midler) to help him lose it. Instead, she convinces him it's something he could put to good use.

He quickly converts to exploiting his gift, adapting his behavior to the desires of the women around him and, in the case of Darcy, her ad ideas, giving him the opportunity to take her job. While his intentions are less than noble, the process morphs him into the kind of guy all women dream of. Given that it's Mel Gibson "acting" like a desirable male, the audience for this movie is not likely to challenge the idea or its credibility. Imagine, Mel Gibson, the master of TLC!

Myers gets a pat on the back for her casting, notably Marisa Tomei as Lola, sexy and adorable and another notch on Nick's belt; and for Alan Alda as the agency's corporate thinking boss, Dan Wanamaker.

What Myers shouldn't be thanked for, however, is the exaggerated, over-acted, over stated style of the film. She makes sure you get the point by repeating, if not one way then another, when subtlety and a more realistic approach would have made the film funnier and maybe even convincing. What does she think we are, dumb popcorn eaters?

A hapless romp with Mel.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  



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