The Good: Funny, Good acting, Entertaining, Writing
The Bad: Pacing, 99% Predictable
The Basics: While less-compellingly delivered than had it been a drama, this romantic comedy works at taking an old concept and making it bearable to watch again.
What Women Want is an absurdly-conceived film saved solely by most of the acting and the writing. It's a predictable romantic comedy that takes a hugely contrived premise and then beats it into the ground. The saving grace: it does it well. One of the older schools of Modernist thought is that everything has already been said. Every story that can possibly be told has already been told, that's the theory. Given that, the key now is either doing the story that is done very well or making the old thing seem new. What Women Want does a little of both and for the most part, it succeeds as such.
What Women Want follows advertising executive Nick Marshall dealing with the fact that he's a sexist, chauvinistic suit who suddenly finds himself having to take women seriously. This comes in the form of him being passed over for promotion to Creative Director of the ad agency he works for when the importance of female consumer dollars in realized and Darcy McGuire gets the job instead. Nick is determined to sink Darcy and get the job for himself when he electrocutes himself. This gives him, tacky as it is to say, the super power ability to read the minds of women. After a ridiculously quick understanding of this gift, Nick decides to use this ability to meet his goal by reading Darcy's thoughts and anticipating her campaigns.
What Women Want is a comedy. To that end, it's funny. Mel Gibson actually brings humor to Nick Marshall and Alan Alda is wonderful as his boss, Dan. A lot of the overt stuff, like Nick trying on control top panty hose is good for a brief smile and some of the stuff intended to be funny, like the fact that Nick can read the thoughts of a poodle, falls flat. The shining moments are the subtle humors. Morgan, Nick's best friend, provides quite a bit of the film's humor. The thing is, the film would have been vastly better as a drama. It's hard for people to take an idea they've seen (especially that they like) and challenge it. What Women Want would have been vastly better as a drama of one of two types: Had Nick been granted the power he received and not understood it and it destroyed him (imagine suddenly reading a single unfiltered mind, much less those of all women!) or Nick gained his power, uses it against Darcy and the effect such has on him in the negative growth direction. Essentially, Nick is using his power for a bad purpose in the film, playing with that and what it means would have made for a far far better story. Apparently, comedies are what sell for this, though.
The problem, though, is that character, the most important aspect of the story, suffers. Nick doesn't read right. I mean, basically, he's a pig at the beginning of the film. That's fine, he was raised to be one. That the ability to read women's minds suddenly makes him more understanding is ridiculous. At one point in the film, Nick uses his powers to understand a woman he is pursuing sexually. Basically, he commits the ultimate manipulation of her and that was in character. The question is, why would simply knowing women's thoughts suddenly, realistically, change Nick? Unless he's been going through life with the understanding that women don't think, obviously he wouldn't.
Outside Nick, the other characters in the film are interesting and realistic. They each have their wants and needs and they read as real people in that way. Darcy, especially, has the feel of being a real individual.
The acting overall is good. Especially the young talent. Sarah Paulson and Judy Greer play Annie and Erin with scene-stealing precision. They're better than just eye candy, they're people acting and they do it well.
The moment Nick gets his power and goes to the office, the rest of the plot becomes predictable. In all honesty, I called most all of the rest of the film in that scene. The problem is some of it doesn't make sense. The best example I can give is Nick's brief relationship with Lola. After he is pronounced a sex god, he doesn't call her for six days. That makes sense if he's the pig from the beginning, because then he doesn't care about gratifying her, he's fine in that he accomplished it once, but not in the developing character that works so hard to satisfy her. Even that isn't such a big deal because it allows the vastly more predictable main plot to progress.
Despite its faults, the writing is there. The lines are well written and they tend to be well delivered. It's not the brain surgery of film making; it's entertainment and it accomplishes that. Every once and a while, even I am able to appreciate a film that does just that.
For other romantic comedies, please check out my reviews of:
Crazy Stupid Love.
Friends With Benefits
For other film reviews, click here to visit my index page which has the reviews organized by movie title!
© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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