I’ve seen movies by Lawrence Kasdan and I’ve seen movies by his son Jake Kasdan. And now having seen the work of Lawrence’s other son Jonathan, I have to say that he’s no Larry or Jake. I’m not sure what the point of In the Land of Women is, but I’m relatively certain that Kasdan doesn’t accomplish it. Forget the ridiculous title, the really amazing thing about this movie is the fact that so little comes from so much. I can only presume that Jon Kasdan thought he was Cameron Crowe when he was sitting down to pen this. To me, this movie is further proof that Garden State, like Pulp Fiction a decade ago, is the new high bar for first-time filmmakers looking to make a mark first time at the plate.
The film follows Carter Webb (Adam Brody), a screenwriter of soft-core erotica that’s recently been dumped by his actress girlfriend. His mother receives a call from his Grandma Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis) and decides that maybe the old lady needs some supervision. Carter volunteers to make the trip to suburban Michigan to look after her as he recoups from rejection. While looking after his grandmother, Carter becomes involved in the lives of the Hardwickes, the family that lives across the street. Mother Sarah (Meg Ryan) is stuck in the housewife rut and has recently discovered that she has breast cancer. Teenage daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), has your typical teenage dilemmas, primary among them is that she’s mad at her mother for allowing her father’s indiscretions to go on under her nose.
The actors themselves aren’t really the problem with the movie, just that the situations they seem to find themselves in strains credibility. Brody proves: a) that there is life after the O.C., and b) he can bring the funny without a brawler in a wife beater as his straight man. Of course, I think part of the reason the part worked so well for Brody is that the character could easily be Seth Cohen ten years hence (if we didn’t already know that he ended up marrying Summer in the end, of course). The scenes with Brody and Dukakis are dynamite, with her being the crusty old timer who doesn’t care anymore, and Brody having to deal with that.
A lot of the script problems centre around the mother-daughter relationship between Sarah and Lucy. The crux of their fragmented relationship is never vented properly and their reconciliation is handled so poorly it leaves you thinking that things must not have been that bad in the first place. In a way, both women are love interests for Carter, but I don’t think these subplots were played up well and again the motivations were left somewhat hanging. On the bright side, the actors always interacted well together and the movie certainly wasn’t boring by any means, I just never seemed to have any idea where it was going. If this were a mystery-thriller then that would be a good thing, but this is a relationship dramedy… And the place the movie leaves you standing on is not very satisfying at all.
For whom this movie is catering to depends firmly on your reaction to the following phrase “[Adam Brody] is sooooo hot!”—for this was the initial response from one over enthusiastic fan in the tweeny-bopper-filled audience as the movie began. If you’re a Brody-hater then chances are In the Land of Women isn’t going to get you to rethink your opinion on the man and his talent. But given this and last fall’s Last Kiss, I’d suggest the old O.C. gang keep their options carefully open.