Three Monkeys Online

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In Her Shoes

In Her Shoes is the story of two very different sisters who fight, drift apart and slowly bond anew under the watchful eye of their grandmother. It derives its title from the fact that the pair, despite their many dissimilarities, share the same shoe size.

The film begins with an introduction to rebellious sister Maggie (Cameron Diaz) on the one hand, and hard-working, grown-up sister Rose (Toni Collette). Their relationship is sketched out as the sounds of Stupid Girl by Garbage fade: Rose helps and shelters Maggie, Maggie makes a mess of her apartment, Rose seeks to help Maggie find a job, Maggie manages to sleep with Rose’s boyfriend. This act of betrayal is the catalyst for the sisters’ separation, as Rose throws Maggie out of the house.

The parallel narrative of the intro is then resumed as both sisters begin to re-evaluate their lives. Maggie finds they have a long-lost grandmother living in Florida, and goes to stay with her in her retirement community. There, whilst watched by at first bemused and then affectionate senior citizens, she begins to grow up and become responsible for her life. Rose, meanwhile, packs in her legal career to become a free-spirited dog walker. She meets a new man, Simon (Mark Feuerstein), who encourages her to be herself. Their grandmother, Ella, played by Shirley Maclaine, helps to bring about their reunion, and the finale plays out in a straightforward happy ending fashion.

The interaction between the two leads, Diaz and Collette, is the principle strength of In Her Shoes. The scene where Rose finds Maggie in bed with her boyfriend is genuinely dramatic. A heated argument ensues and each hits out at the other, Rose by mocking Maggie’s apparent dyslexia, and Maggie by calling her sister 'a fat pig’. And when they make up in Florida there is real warmth between them. The film also has a decent cast of supporting actors. Maclaine plays the role of the girls’ grandmother strongly, helping to hint at the problems their ill mother suffered. The sisters’ horrible stepmother, their doting but emotionally repressed father, Rose’s confidante Amy (Brooke Smith) and the nursing home patients who Maggie befriends all offer laughs and crisp dialogue.

However, there is a nagging sense that In Her Shoes could have achieved more as a drama. Rose’s new boyfriend Simon is too dull and cardboard-like a character to really help forge a genuine relationship with. The script is better at dealing with how Rose changes than Maggie’s transformation from partier to responsible adult. Even when she gains her new boyfriend Rose still is racked with self-doubt, and Collette helps us to identify with Rose’s insecurities. One bout of mockery by her stepmother is enough to send Rose tumbling back into the spirals of self-doubt that she seemed to be escaping from. Diaz’s triumph over her reading problems and general lack of education is done with less grittiness and more glossiness. One minute Maggie is stuttering over the first word of a poem, the next minute she’s running a business as a personal shopper and reciting verse at Rose’s wedding.

The issue of the sisters’ mentally ill mother, who died when they were young, floats over the film but is never really dealt with in a meaningful way. The director simply uses it as the glue that brings everyone back together again. The book In Her Shoes, by Jennifer Weiner, focused in more depth on Maggie’s journey (she read poetry whilst masquerading as a student in Princeton) and also on the relationship between the girls and Ella. As stated above, the film offers a rather lazy interpretation of the poetry aspect and just doesn’t delve deep enough into the grandmother-granddaughter question.

One senses that it suited everyone to go along with the look of the film in the trailer: a chick flick with laughter and tears and endless references to shoes. The disappointing aspect is that there are occasional hints that it has more to offer. As it is, In Her Shoes is a well-acted, enjoyable and up-lifting drama about the changing relationship between two sisters, but this is simply a variation on a theme that has been done countless times before.

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