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Movie Review

In the Land of Women

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

Reviewed by: Lacey Mical (Callahan) Walker
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens
Genre:
Comedy, Drama, Romance
Length:
1 hr. 33 min.
Year of Release:
2007
USA Release:
April 20, 2007
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Warner Bros. Pictures

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

Adultery

Fornication

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

How far is too far? What are the guidelines for dating relationships? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.
Teen Qs™—Christian Answers for teenagers
Teens! Have questions? Find answers in our popular TeenQs section. Get answers to your questions about life, dating and much more.

Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

What should a Christian do if overwhelmed with depression? Answer

Featuring: Elena Anaya
Van Helsing

Adam Brody
Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” “The Ring,” “Thank You for Smoking

Meg Ryan, Kristen Stewart, Olympia Dukakis
Director: Jonathan Kasdan
Producer: Lawrence Kasdan, Steve Golin, David J. Kanter
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

“Get ready to fall”

A note to the reader: The flavor of this review is quite different from those which I have written in the past, or may write in the future. This difference is necessitated by the fact that my conscience is torn as I wrestle with how this film should be presented on Christian Spotlight on the Movies. I feel unsure whether to unabashedly laud or dutifully criticize this film with which, on both moral and intellectual plains, I was truly impressed. Thus, I find myself left with the unenviable task of attempting to do both.

Every once in a while, a movie comes along that surprises. A movie that dares to tell an original story, with warmth and real emotion, portraying characters who might actually exist in the reality with which the rest of us are so intimately acquainted. In the Land of Women is such a movie; possessing both the story quality of a well-thought-out independent film and the movie-making quality of a major motion picture. Unfortunately, as is often the case, the studio feels the need to disguise such movies in deceptive advertisements, desperately attempting to hide the real plot behind a facade of clips, bytes and poster shots which are seemingly intended to mislead prospective viewers into believing that this diamond in the rough is just another bit of rubble, indistinguishable from the rest.

A fabulous side-effect of the misleading advertisements associated with this film is that the entire storyline is kept under wraps. I cannot remember the last time I saw a movie which the plot had not already been revealed through the trailers so extensively that there remain little or no elements of discovery in the viewing. There was, for me, almost nothing predictable to be found in this script and that, coupled with not having seen or heard any “spoilers,” made the experience so much more enjoyable. With these thoughts in mind, my plot summary will be deliberately vague, and my moral critique as unspecific as possible.

This story is not a romance, though it focuses at various points on about fifteen different relationships playing out among the seven main characters. This film is not a comedy, though there were a few hearty laughs to be had. It is not dark or depressing, while serious issues such as cancer, adultery, and death are addressed. This movie is not saccharine, yet it is deeply touching and at times quite heartwarming. This is a film about “real life.”

Our hero in this story is Carter Webb, charmingly acted by Adam Brody. Carter is sensitive, vulnerable, strong, funny, patient, and very kind to those around him, including his ailing grandmother. Watching Carter form differing bonds with the three female members of the family across the street (mother and two daughters) is both intriguing and endearing. Carter’s relationship with his senile grandmother (played fabulously by Olympia Dukakis), who he is taking care of full-time, is attentive and loving, though at times he becomes frustrated with the acting out of her dementia. These scenes between grandma and grandson are both touching and humorous, and as someone who has had grandparents living in her home, I can vouch for how very realistic the portrayal was.

Unfortunately, there is an interesting moral “catch” to this otherwise admirable character: He is a script writer in the “soft-core” pornographic film industry. This was one of a few issues scattered in the story which were very unfortunate because it added an unnecessary element of immorality which muddies the film. Carter’s career is introduced to us near the beginning, and there is one phone call to which we are privy between Carter and his boss in which they are discussing elements of an upcoming pornographic film. While the conversation is not graphic, the content is undesirable and it is one of the reasons why children should not be allowed to view this movie. After this, the subject of his vocation is not addressed directly, indeed the people around him in the story are not even aware of what he does.

Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) is the mom who lives across the street. Carter’s relationship to Sarah is the more central—and most complex—focus of the film.

The role of Sarah fits Meg Ryan so beautifully it seems tailor-made for her. I cannot think of an actress who could more convincingly portray Sarah’s maturity and motherhood intertwined with vulnerability and uncertainty.

Sarah’s daughters, Paige and Lucy, (Kristen Stewart and Makenzie Vega) are typical adolescents, not in the way that adolescents are generally portrayed in fictional media, but they are girls we might meet in our own neighborhoods. The banter between the sisters, who share a friendship which is portrayed very realistically, is quite believable, and Makenzie Vega is so convincing in her role as the younger sister she quite often steals the scenes from her older counterparts.

So often, scripts are plotted in such a way as to definitively instruct the audience as to who we should “like” and who we must vilify. In contrast to this make-believe black and white world, life’s characters are most often gray, possessing the ability to do both “good” and “evil”—to be both likable and unlikable. There are so few wholly admirable (indeed, if we are to be honest, there are none such humans) and equally few wholly detestable individuals to be found in our daily lives. In the Land of Women introduces us to just such realistic people.

Some specific elements of moral concern:

The good:

  • Adultery is, overall, presented as a bad thing.
  • Familial relationships are re-enforced and presented as important.
  • Honesty is encouraged.
  • Youthful, pre-marital sexual encounters are portrayed as harmful.
  • The teenage boy “love interest” has good character and is liked for this reason.
  • No nudity or lovemaking scenes.

The bad:

  • Teenage smoking and drinking
  • A relationship which would be viewed by some as adulterous is portrayed as having been a good thing.
  • Frequent swearing, including the Lord’s name in vain
  • Some crude, non-graphic sexual dialogue, as mentioned earlier in this review

“Real life” does not consist solely of happily-ever-afters with kisses in the rain, or an endless series of jokes and slapstick incidents, or supposed “deep” conversations held under a guise of intellectualism by lost souls reaching for something they have yet to discover. Real life is a mixture of all these things; a road full of bumps and curves, where the only certainty for most is uncertainty and the only tangible reality to be grasped by all who are willing to accept Truth leads to God.

My bottom line: While not family-friendly, this film is worth seeing.

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

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer Comments
Comments available:
Positive
Positive—I expected a completely different movie… just a typical romantic comedy. However, this movie was different and much better. I liked that there was no clear resolution or fake, fairy tale love. It was very real.
My Ratings: Good / 5
—Lyndsey C, age 22
Negative
Negative—My daughters and I were looking forward to a movie with Adam Brody in it, but this movie was not what we had expected. It did not make any sense, and I really felt like I wasted my money. It was boring, and the plot was “nowhere.” The visuals were okay, but they should have used these actors in a much better movie script.
My Ratings: Average / 2½
—Donna M, age 51
Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie. Plain and simple and extremely relevant in many people’s lives. I loved how it took something negative and turned it into something beautiful. There are occasional cuss words and some sexual refrences, but, overall, I really enjoyed this movie. I recommend it to everyone!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Arianna, age 16
Negative—My friends and I rented this movie expecting a nice love story. What we got was the complete opposite. This is probably the worst movie I have ever seen. It has a boring plot that really has no ending. You are left confused and wondering why you just wasted 2 hours of your life. Not only that, there is some language, like Fword, and references to porn. The daughter is a brat and smokes (she does come around in the end, but while shes going through her phase its made to look like “normal teenage life”)

***SPOILER*** Also, it’s so weird that Adam Brody kisses both the 40 year old mom and her 18 year old daughter. However, this is all meant to be romantic. Then, the mom gets cancer. Which is just to make a poorly made “suspense” scene. And the grandmother serves no purpose other than to have some reason for Adam Brody and Meg Ryan to meet.

My opinion: It’s NOT a love story at all and a HUGE waste of time and money.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 2
—Emily, age 16