In Her Shoes

Romantic melodrama. A tale about two sisters, diametrically opposite in personalities and lifestyles, who battle through life, yet find themselves as necessary to each other’s existence as yin and yang. Toni Collette plays the lead, a slightly homely, bookish lawyer at a firm in the city, who struggles to find a man of quality who will love her with integrity. Her foil, and yang sister, played by Cameron Diaz, is the blonde promiscuous modelesque bimbo, who literally cannot read well, but can catch any guy she wants, at least for one night. In a way, these are complete stereotypes, but because their story is rich with background and relational detail, it did not bother me one bit. In fact, I think this is the best kind of “universal” writing that incarnates character types but gives them complexity, thus enabling us to find ourselves in them, without reacting to caricatures. Toni finds herself in a predicament when her immature sister, Cameron, is out of a job and a place to stay. We quickly discover their antagonism as opposites and are devastated by the ultimate betrayal, when Cameron sleeps with Toni’s new hopeful boyfriend. This sets in to motion a story that is clearly a “unity of opposites” story, a yin and yang worldview that culminates in the conclusion that Toni needs her sister to compliment her existence, no matter how crazy she makes her. In this sense, the story has a definite dualistic worldview that drives it. This pagan approach however does not negate the powerful emotional truths that are throughout it. Cameron discovers a grandmother (played with pure class by Shirley MacLaine) they thought was dead and seeks her out at a “retirement community for active seniors.” What she discovers in the process is herself, and a way out of her selfishness, when she works at a local care center for the seniors and becomes a fashion shopping assistant for the elderly ladies. This is a wonderful story of redemption. Unfortunately, in order to get there, much of the movie is a fashion show of Cameron’s body in various sexy outfits, obviously an attempt to make an otherwise serious melodrama more “appealing” to mainstream audiences. I found it indicative of the mistrust of this genre by the marketers that they cut the trailers to make this look like a romantic comedy, which it wasn’t. It was more Terms of Endearment, than As Good As it Gets. Be that as it may, it was a touching and humorous experience. And there was a particularly poignant scene that only a woman could write (well, not really, but most men just don’t get it) where the two sisters talk at a diner and Toni tells Cameron that she is foolish to live as she does, giving herself to every man, because she is getting older and she will lose her looks and then where will she be. By then, all the men she allows herself to be used by will go for a prettier 20-something and cast her aside. A 50-year old tramp is not attractive, she’s pathetic. This seems to me the single most powerful sadness of the promiscuous woman. She thinks she is liberated, but she is actually more enslaved by the worst of humanity that the male species brings. Another great sequence shows how this “openness” to men’s appetites makes her a vulnerable and blind victim to predators, as she naively takes a car ride and drinks from two male strangers “helping” her find her towed car. Well, Toni finally realizes a quality man who had been around her all the time, but she missed him, because he was shy, but in the end, his character was revealed by his concern for Toni’s happiness than his own, a fine definition of love. Unfortunately, Toni has such serious emotional psychological problems with her family’s past that she cannot allow herself to be loved, which jeopardizes her engagement to said quality man. It all surrounds the fact that their mother killed herself when they were young. She had psychological problems and stopped taking psychotropics so she could be more “there” for the girls. But when her husband threatened putting her in a hospital, she killed herself. Thus giving the husband a guilty conscience in hiding his daughters from the grandma because she would blame him for the mother’s death. By the end, everyone is forced to at least begin dealing with their issues in communicating to one another their fears and issues. Very redemptive story. One element I did not like was the conclusion where Toni’s sister is reconciled to Toni and she says this poem at Toni’s wedding. Then, when Toni leaves with her new husband, there is this connection that is communicated between the sisters in voice over as well as visual that they are necessary to each other to their dying days. Well, this viewpoint is obviously written by a writer who has clearly not experienced the sacred unity of husband and wife that trumps old family connections and creates a new deeper one, a bond of spirit and flesh (Genesis 2:22-24). Spirit is thicker than blood. But that doesn’t mean blood is irrelevant, and this movie brings a welcomed, though slightly flawed, appreciation of those blood ties.