Great Character Moments in Film #3: IN THE LAND OF WOMEN
IN THE LAND OF WOMEN is a great film with a title bad enough to be a novel title. Yeah, I’ve said it.
Actually & tangentially, I once started putting together a list of ‘best movies with the worst titles, in history’ but it turned out to be mostly movies based on novels, & so I had to retire the list out of fellow-feeling for my writer colleagues. But if I still had that list, IN THE LAND OF WOMEN would be at the top of it.
The movie starts with a rather writerly, unrealistic introduction where our protagonist is cries silently while his girlfriend breaks up with him. If you can stand the Juno-esque cutesyness of that, the rest of the movie is lovely & smart & bittersweet – the latter being my favourite style of movie or book.
As another aside, I’ve been trying to come up with a word that means ‘so cute it’s kinda grotesque, but not in any kind of satisfying way like Mark Ryden or the recent Cute & Creepy exhibition at Florida’s Museum of Fine Arts’. Cutesque just doesn’t seem to cut it, because it still implies there’s something kinda cool about the cuteness. Or, you know, I could probably just stick to ‘schmaltzy’.
ANYHOW, I’m circling around this, because it’s hard to pinpoint just one moment given the smoothness of the film, the way the moments are drawn out, often revealing both humour and sadness (like when protagonist Carter tells his mother that his girlfriend has left him & she responds with a tearful, “She’s so beautiful, she’s so funny and great!” before remembering to add, “Oh, Carter, how are you doing?”). And it’s hard to pinpoint one moment because, frankly, there are so many. This is a character-driven film. Almost EVERYONE in the film gets a great moment.
But given my previous, almost random criteria that a great character moment should also change the character’s motivation, should propel the character into a new direction (& a new Act), I figure the best character moment here must be the moment Carter decides to leave LA with its busted romance & it’s shitty day job (I’d mention what that day job is here, but I get enough spam as it is) & head to Detroit (okay, he writes soft-core p0rn) to look after his crazy Grandmother whose latest paranoid claim is that she’s dying.
In this filmic moment, then, Carter’s mother is still attempting the belated comfort, reassuring Carter that he’ll meet a really great girl one day. And Carter says, “I don’t want to meet a really great girl. I don’t want to meet anyone, I just want to be alone with my Gramma. And her cat.”
Which launches the next Act of the film and underlines the main theme: the impossibility of being alone.
Of course, his first discovery on reaching Detroit is that the cat is already dead. Welcome to the rest of your stay in Detroit, Carter Webb.
IN THE LAND OF WOMEN, starring
- Adam Brody (warmly likeable; from The OC, apparently)
- Meg Ryan (in an emotional role somewhat compromised by a little too much botox pre-filming, which is a crying shame – a crying, crying shame!)
- Olympia Dukakis (absolutely hilarious! I bet this was the best fun she’s ever had acting & with most of her clothes on) and
- Kristen Stewart (in her pre-Twilight days when she was just a super-talented young actor)
Oh, just watch it!