Prayer Focus
Movie Review

In Her Shoes

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material, language and some sexual content

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Genre:
Comedy Drama
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2005
USA Release:
October 7, 2005 (wide)
Featuring: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, Eric Balfour, Brooke Smith
Director: Curtis Hanson
Producer: Curtis Hanson, Lisa Ellzey, Carol Fenelon
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
Copyright, 20th Century Fox
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Copyright, 20th Century Fox

In today’s world of thinking about “numero uno” God’s light shines through Jeremiah who states “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” We spend so much of our time doing what seems right in our own eyes that we wind up like the characters in this movie. Constantly trying desperately to fit into all sorts of worldly “shoes” and at the same time fearful to even put them on. People who are not following in God’s shoes, but allowing their deceitful hearts to lead and direct them instead, end up with results that are painful and devastating.

“In Her Shoes” asks us to decide if our deceitful human hearts are a reliable guide through life. How our hearts lead us off course, what wisdom is, and gives hope that the human spirit can do a 360 eventually prevailing over it all.

Beautiful and sluttish Maggie Feller (Cameron Diaz) hasn’t a clue as to what real life is all about. She spends all her time wondering through people’s lives, stealing their clothes, money, jewelry, and loosing all her self respect. She is the ultimate example of the relative you don’t want staying in your house when you’re not home. Her older sister, Rose (Toni Collette) is her exact polar opposite: a plain-jane lawyer, smart, upright, reserved and sadly lonesome.

Right off the bat Maggie gets drunk, a position she finds herself in way too often, is rescued for the umteenth time by her older sister, is thrown out by her stepmother and father, and ends up under Rose’s wing, which is in no way the perfect arrangement.

Rose lets Maggie know in no uncertain terms she’ll have to get a job, that this is not a hand out and leaves for work handing Mag the classifieds with all jobs in her category neatly circled. Left alone in the apartment, Maggie immediately pilfers through dresser drawers stealing money and jewelry and goes right for the closet with the grace of a seasoned pro. The closet is not just a place for Rose’s clothes neatly hung, but a resting place for hundreds of pairs of designer shoes. When Maggie questions Rose about why so many, 99 per cent of which she will obviously never wear, Rose reveals having them gives her the only comfort she has ever known.

Not long into Mag’s unwelcome stay, Rose’s boyfriend shows up and, as usual, Maggie winds up seducing him. Caught in the act, an enraged and hurt beyond all reason, Rose throws them both out. Maggie for the ultimate last time.

Rejected and with no other place to go, the unscrupulous Mag goes back to her Father’s house and while stealing more money to go back to New York, finds hundreds of unopened cards from the Grandmother she has never known, realizing her Father and Stepmother purposefully kept the Grandmother a secret from she and Rose ever since their childhood when their mother died in a car accident. As the cards are filled with five and ten dollar bills, the con-artist in Maggie is aroused and she decides to go to Florida, planning to introduce herself to their long lost Grandmother with the intent of sucking her dry as well.

At this point this formula flick takes a sharp turn. We note now that the beginning was merely a set up for what is to follow, which is a movie rich in hard learned lessons about life, love and relationships. Be prepared that “In Her Shoes,” although billed as a comedy is raft with dramatic images that well might make most Christians squirm and doesn’t leave much to subtlety.

The reality is that Rose has spent all her life shielding her younger sister from the fact their mother had mental problems which their father couldn’t handle. The car accident was always suspected as a suicide. Maggie, unknowingly caught in the middle, was shielded to such a degree as to become grossly spoiled and sometimes forgotten in the wake of everyone’s grief and secrecy. Rose looses herself in over achievement, while Maggie languishes in self centered irresponsibility. Terrible and cruel, the act of protecting one another has lead to a family steeped in dysfunction, pain, and no knowledge of what a real relationship is like.

Although Rose has her own problems with liking herself, finding honest relationships with men, and knowing what is meaningful for real concern in this world, which stem from her relentless protection of her younger sister, Maggie has suffered the most. Maggie has dyslexia. This in and of itself has caused her to hide all of her faults her whole life, even to the point of not learning to read, math skills never conquered and the misunderstanding of everyone in the family that the reason she has never held down a job is that she’s a lazy superficial brat. Now add to this scenario, the new revelation that an unknown Grandmother exists and the plot unquestionably thickens.

When Maggie shows up on Ella’s (Shirley McLaine) doorstep at her upscale Florida retirement community, everyone’s life changes forever. Mag soon learns Ella is a tough cookie who, though with love, will not stand for Mag’s choices in life. Example: Mag is discovered going through Ella’s dresser drawers to steal money. Ella coolly crosses her arms, leans against the doorway and says, “How much money were you hoping to get from me?” She makes Maggie a deal: She’ll match, penny for penny, whatever Maggie can make while working at the retirement community’s assisted living center. Maggie discovers she likes the work, she can make something of herself and that she is genuinely loved. One resident of the assisted living center is a retired Professor, who is blind (Norman Lloyd) and insists that Mag read to him and keep him company. It is through this sweet and honest relationship that she learns, not only to overcome the hindrances of her dyslexia, but to trust.

In Maggie’s absence, Rose finds true love with fellow lawyer Simon (Mark Feuerstein) and he in turn teaches her what sincere, honesty in a relationship fueled by unconditional love is all about. It isn’t easy, and often times down right scary, to fit into all the different “shoes” that life puts us in, but it can be done. Maggie, Rose and Ella see what it is like to be in each other’s shoes and in an entertaining and provocative way. Maggie’s growth accomplishes a wondrous thing in making the other two most important people in her life grow as well.

PG-13 is a scary point again as this film is full of raunchy signals with a sex scene at the very beginning in a bathroom between two drunk people who don’t even know one another. The fact that not just sex, but sex for payment and sex as a means of self-medication against the pain of this world is a red flag for parents to discuss the meaning of God’s design for love between a man and a woman. Characters use foul language (bit** 2, sh** 3, damn-it once, a** once), drink, are disrespectful of the relationships they have with each other and strangers, and never consider God or faith as the answer to all their woes. Characters make a prolonged ref to a vagina in a scene that is meant to be funny between these two sisters, but I found most offensive, and after (ref: getting laid) two characters have sex, the question is asked, “…does this mean I’m your bit**?” also meant to be funny, but repulsive to me. I could go on, but you get my meaning. Add to these bad examples: stealing, lying, covetousness, deceit, materialistic notions that “things” can make you feel better, the issue of suicide, and you’ve got a lot to sort out for discussion with your youngsters!

Although some stuff I found offensive, I must admit that I laughed a little and cried a lot through “In Her Shoes” because the basic message was clearly how awful our society has become and how helpless we seem to be about making change. It gives an answer, though secular, to love one another and be honest in our relationships. Not the complete answer, looking at it from the Christian point of view, but a start never the less.

The sisters learn they are a “pair” that cannot be separated. They learn this relationship is precious and valuable. As Solomon summarizes this truth in the book of Ecclesiastes (4:9-10), “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up.Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.”

Each of us should have a handful of family and friends who can shoot straight with us, as Ella did with her grandchildren, whenever we need to be corrected or rebuked. It might sting for a season, but the value of these relationships is beyond worldly wealth. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted” Proverbs 27:6.

People who love one another have to confide in one another. Be dishonest and relationships suffer. “In Her Shoes” is a story about two sisters who really need each other and a very fractured family’s triumph against the odds because of things said rather than unsaid.

The things said, read sweetly and with heart as we are all pulling tissues from our pockets, by Maggie in the end is a poem by E.E. Cummings (who’s known for the way he plays with the arrangements and spellings of his words) entitled “i carry your heart with me (I carry it in my heart)” The fact that the dyslexic Mag is reading it adds all the power to the ending!

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a time called life; which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

Violence: Minor / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive—Personally I like drama mixed with comedy, and even though this movie doesn’t go full-strength with either of those genre’s, I still liked it (but more on that later). On the negative side, I found myself wanting to shake the director and say loudly “Ok, Ok, I get it. Cameron Diaz has a GORGEOUS body, point taken, enough already!” There were a handful too many long and lingering gratuitous shots of Cameron’s long legs, and her body in general (when it was scantily clad) which really served no other purpose than to feed the eye candy to anyone with that sort of sweet tooth. Thus, it made my husband and I squirm a bit—for the wrong reasons.

Cameron’s character Maggie is a very pretty lady with pretty ugly morals. She’s thieving and sexually promiscuous for starters, and it’s not what I want to watch when I go to see a movie. There is one brief “caught in the act” sex scene and both girls don’t seem to have a problem with sex outside of marriage.

However, this movie redeemed itself for me. It has a nice story. I won’t spoil the ending, but the immoral and regrettable events at the beginning very much serve to plot the journey of Maggie and her sister Rose (Toni Collette). We are shown Maggie experiencing the consequences of her actions, and so her life only gets better when she cleans up her act—albeit, by default.

Shirley McClaine (who plays the sisters’ long-lost grandmother) is great to watch also. The only part where I cringed with Shirley was a scene where she was trying to be “hip” to please her granddaughter and was watching a morally bankrupt cable show. I like feel-good movies, and I felt good when both sisters made changes in their lives that made everything better in the end. I shed some happy tears and left with a smile.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
—Maria Anstis, age 36
Positive—I was entirely entertained by this family drama about love and conflict between two very different sisters. It is unfortunate that this film has as one of its primary components the immoral lifestyle of one of the sisters, and from the Christian point of view, the immoral life style of the “good” sister. But this activity has become average in our sinful society, for which I give this movie an “average” moral rating, although the very brief, but explicit, sexual scene would probably tip it to the “offensive” rating.

However, this is otherwise a decent movie about passions between siblings and also their relations with all other members of their families, as well as their boyfriends. Toni Collette is an exceptionally gifted actress. Her relationship with her sister, played by Cameron Diaz, is believable. Shirley MacLaine is good as the long lost grandmother. I found myself crying in the end—sobbing almost—in a very satisfying way. A real tear-jerker. Intelligent script, interesting movie.
My Ratings: Average / 5
Halyna Barannik, age 59
Positive—I liked this movie. There were questionable and offensive sexual undertones, and some drunkeness, but the oldest sister, played by Toni Collette, having a forgiving heart towards her younger sister, played by Cameron Diaz, made the movie move forward. Yes, the camera lingered too long on Diaz’s legs and skimpy clothing, and it was a wonder the men in the retirement community didn’t have heart attacks when she wore a bikini. But she becomes an overcomer of major character weaknesses by working at the retirement home with her estranged Grandmother, played by Shirley McLaine.

This movie showed how two totally different sisters can bond with a love that not even a man could sever. As always, it is wonderful to have Shirley McLaine bringing wisdom and non-judgment to the story with gentility. A nice surprise was Toni Collette’s love interest played by Mark Feuerstein, who subtly pursues Toni with patience and understanding and is a good guy throughout the whole film.
My Ratings: Better than Average / 3
—Jo Wendland, age 50
Negative—My 13 year old daughter and a group of boys/girl went together. Myself and another mom decided to stay. The first 15 to 20 minutes should have been R-rated. We left and went to see another movie. It is not appropriate for a 13 year old. I understand it gets much better, but we had no idea it started so raw, and had no idea if it would improve. The previews on television show none of this. I am extremely disappointed it is PG-13. What deceitful advertising. The kids were very embarressed and half opted to go to another movie with us. I gave them the choice, because I was not their as their chaperone.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 1
—cindy, age 48
Negative—My sister-in-law and I went to see this movie, thinking it was okay for adults. The begining was horrible, with the sex scene in the bathroom. …The movie had “God D***” in it. This is AWFUL!! I don’t see how other CHRISTians can sit through a movie with no problem when it D**** their God? How is this okay?? I am sending this to warn other Christians, as a CHRISTian we are to be careful what we watch and listen to. I should have used much better judgment and read the Christian Spotlight review entirely. I also skipped over the viewer comments, next time I will pay close attention to what other viewers say.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 4
—Sherry, age 30
Comments from young people
Positive—This movie had a very good moral at the end, but there was lots of sexual things. If you are looking for a family movie, skip this one. “In Her Shoes” demonstrates about love, forgiveness, and how you don’t need guys to make you feel whole.
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 3½
—Beka, age 13
Movie Critics
…not the zany comedy I expected, but a finely acted movie with dark undertones…
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Barbara Vancheri
…A sisterhood-is-powerful-when-it-isn’t-hell-on-Earth family fable… good, solid entertainment…
—Boston Herald, James Verniere
…a chick flick in the best and worst senses of that shorthand…
—Plugged In, Christopher Lyon
…“In Her Shoes” starts out with the materials of an ordinary movie and becomes a rather special one…
—Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert
…Leaves warm glow after chilly start…
—Crosswalk, Christian Hamaker
…MacLaine’s portrayal of the no-nonsense granny Ella that represents a subtle, welcome departure from the flaky eccentrics she’s been associated…
—Newsday, Gene Seymour