Female trouble

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Meg Ryan has had a remake of George Cukor's 1939 classic The Women in the works for 14 years. The interest that she and a solid cast of supporting actresses had in the project is understandable, given the few good roles available for women of all ages (like the original, there are no men in the movie) and the wonderful results the first time.

This time, though, it's not really light comedy. It's mostly just hollow.

Opening with that horribly cliched helicopter shot flying over the Hudson River toward the Manhattan skyline, the film shifts into an ad for Saks Fifth Avenue and several high-end designers before introducing its players.

Ryan is Mary Haines, the busy wife of a prominent man on Wall Street. Her husband's dalliance with perfume counter girl-slash-maneater Crystal Allen (Eva Mendes) sets in motion a plot full of bonding and fighting with gal pals Annette Bening, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith, some catty quips, and mixed messages about body acceptance.

As it was in 1939, this 2008 update is funniest when it's bitchiest, and Candice Bergen lights up her scenes as Mary's mother. Ryan, on the other hand, doesn't settle in to her part.

And while writer-director Diane English furrows her brows at the weight issues of Mary's skinny daughter, she makes light of Bergen's insistence on a facelift. Bette Midler, in a nothing role, is just more flesh tossed to the side.