The Women - DVD Review

'show me a film more morally confused than The Women and I will show you a surprised face'

There are very few things that I dislike more than a film which thinks it is doing you a favour by improving you morally, when actually all it is doing is dragging you down to its level. It is my sad, sad duty to report that The Women is one of those films and my even sadder duty to report that I saw it too late to include it on my Worst Films Seen In The Noughties List. In happier news: there's always next decade.

The Women wants to push two agendas; firstly, that women don't need men to function or succeed, to prosper or be happy and secondly, that as a woman you are who you are, you don't need to worry about being tall and thin, you're beautiful. Two agendas which are very noble causes and which are still severely under represented by quality films within Hollywood. Both the stories revolve around Meg Ryan's Marie Haynes who is in the process of divorcing her cheating husband and attempting to cope with her inability to interact with her increasingly distant daughter (India Ennenga) all the while supported by her best friend (Annette Bening) and hindered by her husband's new mistress (Eva Mendes).

So, deep breath, first one first. The main way that director Diane English chooses to tell us that women are strong enough to go through life without men is to not include a single one in the film. No really. You read that right. There is not one single male actor in The Women. OK, that's not strictly true, there is one single one but he doesn't count and I'm not going to spoil why because somebody might want to watch this. For some reason.

English' argument is the intellectual equivalent of the five year old girl in a Maths class who won't sit next to her male buddy because 'boys smell'. It's puerile and weak and as always when you exclude something completely from your argument, you completely detract from the point you are trying to make; 'these women are so strong, so much better than the men in their lives, so successful that we're not even going to bother showing you their men' English' argument goes. But granted The Women are successful and smart and they all live in nice fancy houses and move round posh social circles in New York... which moves us on nicely to agenda number two...

The Women is quite right to point out that yes, you are who you are and yes, you can be successful whoever that happens to be and no, little 12 year old girl, you don't need to lose any weight to try to look like a supermodel. All fine and dandy. But to make that message, English picks four very pretty and stereotypical actresses (Debrah Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith round out the four friends). She then has one of them work for a fashion magazine, makes it worse by getting another one to run a catwalk show where, guess what, there are really thin picture-perfect women and rounds it off by placing the third in a relationship purely based on her partners looks. Show me a film more morally confused than The Women and I will show you a surprised face and that's ignoring the point from the previous paragraph where I start talking about the fact that all these women who are shown that their lives are really rather wonderful without men have the convenience of being quite rich and living in idyllic houses and moving in elite social circles or mention that there's a plastic surgery self-improvement scene where it's shown you can change who you are thank you very much. Oh yes, that's all there too.

The Women tops it off with its conclusion, completely abandoning its own shaky agenda to revel in an optimistic, Hollywood-happy, male-inclusive, ending in at least three out of the four cases. This is a film that can't even take its own medicine because it really does leave the sourest taste possible and ends up re-enforcing a lot of the worst kind of filmic female cliches and images which male orientated films can do quite nicely on their own. The worst sort of one star.

Look Further...

A case in point to my argument: The Women inspired Sky Movies film critic Tim Evans to write this stupid piece of sexist waffle, now removed from the live article 'Like real women, this goes on. And on and on. For almost two hours. God, does it go on.' Way to go The Women, for empowering misogynists everywhere.


  1. I barely made it through 30 minutes of this before turning it off. An all female cast is something I would deem admirable in thought, but ignorant to real life, and therefore not applicable to anyone. What kills me most about this is, as you pointed out, it wants to show women are beautiful the way they are, by using over made up women with massive amounts of botox injected. It just doesn't pass the smell test.

    Of course even without that, it's a horrible horrible film (the writing was borderline laughable).

  2. Absolutely right. I couldn't get past the dodgy morals but if I could have then I would only have been stopped by a really stodgy plot full of close to zero jokes and not much else. The recompensing scene in the street with Ryan and Bening where they realise what they've done was absolutely awful, possibly one of the worst scenes I've ever seen. You can be happy you didn't make it that far.

  3. Hey man just letting you know I selected your blog for my Kreativ Blogger awards to pass on.