Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
|Featuring:||Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein, Eric Balfour, Brooke Smith|
|Producer:||Curtis Hanson, Lisa Ellzey, Carol Fenelon|
|Distributor:||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