Mr. Movie

'The Women': A star-studded dud

The Women is a head-scratcher.

Not the plot. They don’t come much more predictable. It’s the why.

Meg Ryan is cast as the fashion designer wife of a man having an affair with a woman who sells perfume at a swanky department store. Her best friends learn of the transgression and eventually the secret slips out. Ryan’s character is ticked, but unsure of what to do next.

It takes a reel and a half to get there.

Written and directed by former TV writer Diane English (TV’s Murphy Brown), the next hour bobs and bounces sitcom style around the betrayal of the husband and then her best friend. It takes a clumsy look life at the edge of middle age, compromising morals for success, and communicating with a teenage daughter. The last reel is devoted to following dreams and dancing toward the expected happy, and utterly sappy, ending.

Very little in The Women is salvageable. And even the casting is questionable. English surrounds Ryan with a boorish Annette Bening, a completely bored and boring Debra Messing (TV’s Will and Grace), Eva Mendes and Jada Pinkett Smith, a useless Bette Midler and a cliché Cloris Leachman.

The only fun is found in a wonderful and wasted supporting performance from Candice Bergen.

Chick flicks don’t have a lot of plot options. They pretty much follow formula or they aren’t a chick flick. Once in awhile, someone digs a little deeper and produces a classic. This material is the recycling of a 1936 Clare Boothe Luce play that was made into what some consider a classic movie in 1939.

In 1939, it was hip and maybe even scandalous. English’s upgrade keeps the tone and texture of the original film’s dialogue.

It is a huge mistake. That type of talk and the behavior of these characters crossed the oldie-moldy line somewhere in the early 1970s.

Mr. Movie rating: 1 star

Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens today at the Columbia Mall 8 and at Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself