If there is a remake that could give classic film fans a stroke, it would be director/writer Diane English’s remake of “The Women.” At the time, George Cukor’s “The Women” dealt with a groundbreaking theme of women primarily dealing with male issues such as infidelity and divorce. It’s a theme that has proved to be timeless especially in today’s society. However, English’s remake is so hypocritical to itself and the original material that one question is asked by the audience – is this supposed to be a tribute or a mockery of the original film?
The biggest mistake of English’s remake lies within the updated characterizations of Clare Booth Luce’s characters. She desperately tries to make forward statements about women and their place in society without creating characters anyone could sympathize or identify with. The characters are all successful women who are not just independent but narcissistic and insist that men need them. If they are not frightened by such independent women that is. Instead of showing the characters’ strength through divorce and job firings they rely on self-centeredness to pull themselves through. An indecent amount of the script is devoted to speeches proclaiming how “Men are what’s wrong with the world.” To further this point of view, English’s film, set in New York City, drifts from a remake to an adaptation of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s novel “Herland,” when none of the film’s extras are male. No men are shown walking the city streets, walking the hospital hallways or sitting in restaurants.
The one statement that could have been expanded and made the film stand on its own was Mary’s neglect with her daughter during the divorce – something the original forgot to explore as well. A touch of it is explored in English’s remake but not to the extent that could have spoken out about today’s society and how children deal with their parents’ divorce. It is unfortunately lost in the mess.
With a few exceptions of the cast, most are seriously miscast. No one has a lot to work with, therefore all of them fall into stereotypes of their characters. For a film with an “all-star” cast, no one is impressive enough to match India Ennenga who plays “Molly Haines.” Ennenga finds motivation for her scenes and rises above the veteran actresses that surround her. Meg Ryan’s “Mary Haines” is far from the caliber of Norma Shearer -- the audience will not feel bad for her because she does not express any kind of emotion towards anything throughout the entire film. Eva Mendas as “Crystal Allen” is not on screen long enough to pose any kind of threat to the Haines marriage and when she is on screen, Mendes is definitely no match for Joan Crawford’s “Crystal Allen.”
English’s “The Women” was shelved for two years until Picturehouse Entertainment decided to release it, hoping to bank some of the success made from “Sex and the City.” It would have been better to have shelved this film for good.