Movie review: The Women (2008)

The 2008 movie The Women is a remake of a 1939 film…which is actually an adaptation of a 1936 play that I reviewed earlier. I thoroughly enjoyed the play. Witty lines and social commentary that made me stop and think in a few places…despite the dialogue and social commentary being somewhat dated. Set in Manhattan, it centered on the lives of female friends who moved in high society. Husbands cheated. Marriages crumbled.

How, I wondered, would they do a modern movie adaptation of the play? How would the same lines, same issues, same advice (i.e., stay married to your cheating husband. At all costs.) work in 2008?

It turns out that the movie is completely different. Well, almost. The broad strokes of the plot are the same. Set in Manhattan. An all-female cast. Mary’s husband is cheating on her. But the scenes, the dialogue, the backdrop are all different. Several of the women, including Mary, are working women. No one goes to Reno for a divorce. Mary’s mother still advises her daughter to not let her husband know that she knows he is cheating (follow that?)…and the mother-daughter duo leaves for a month-long trip to Maine, not the Caribbean. Mary ends up coming into her own, becoming her own person, starting a clothing design shop….which leads to Stephen wanting her back. The message? Be your own person. Take charge. And men will want you.

This message kind of contradicts a comment that the Other Woman (Crystal) made to Mary—that men who cheat are all looking for someone to appreciate them. Well, maybe Crystal was wrong about that. Or maybe not. In the end, Crystal doesn’t manage to keep Stephen. Mary steals him back…or more aptly, she doesn’t steal him back. He begs to come back into Mary’s life.

There were lines that caught my attention and made me laugh though the dialogue isn’t as quick and witty as in the play. In reference to car’s GPS voice, one of the female friends comments, “The navigation lady is calm and never talks back; my husband’s in love with her.” Or Sylvie’s reflection on never being in a long-term relationship because men do not feel comfortable with successful women. Successful is OK, just not really successful.

There was a roundabout reference to the original play in Mary’s response to her mother’s advice about staying the silent suffering wife and never letting Stephen know that she knows he is cheating. Mary points out how dated this advice was. This isn’t a 1930s movie after all, she quips.

No, indeed. This movie isn’t set in the 1930s. The dialogue and the details about the storyline have changed. The message has been altered a bit to fit the times. Two of the female friends are not in long-term relationships. Let alone relationships with men. (The single author in the original play is a lesbian in the 2008 movie.) But in the end, Mary gets the man. Again. That is what is important. Oh yes, and that she found herself. Which is the key to a man’s heart it seems.

It is an amusing movie but not as entertaining as the original play. Whereas men in the audience seemed to enjoy the play, laughing throughout, the 2008 movie version is definitely for an all-female audience.


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