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The Women DVD Review

The Women (2008) movie poster The Women (2008)

Theatrical Release: September 12, 2008 / Running Time: 114 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Diane English / Writers: Diane English (screenplay); Clare Boothe Luce (play); Anita Loos, Jane Murfin (1939 motion picture screenplay)

Cast: Meg Ryan (Mary Haines), Annette Bening (Sylvie Fowler), Eva Mendes (Crystal Allen), Debra Messing (Edie Cohen), Jada Pinkett Smith (Alex Fisher), Bette Midler (Leah Miller), Candice Bergen (Catherine Frazier), Carrie Fisher (Bailey Smith), Cloris Leachman (Maggie), Debi Mazar (Tanya), India Ennenga (Molly Haines), Jill Flint (Annie), Ana Gasteyer (Pat), Joanna Gleeson (Barbara), Tilly Scott Pedersen (Uta), Lynn Whitfield (Glenda Hill), Natasha Alam (Natasha)

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By Kelvin Cedeno

It seems a curious coincidence that three motion pictures released in 2008 have centered on an ensemble cast of women. It's also interesting to note that none of them were completely original films. One had its roots in television (Sex and the City), another in novels (The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2), and the third in a 1930s play and film (The Women).
Of these three, The Women seemed to come and go with the least amount of fanfare despite boasting an impressive cast. That's not to say crashed and burned, for it had a modest enough budget to make back a profit. Even so, less buzz followed this ensemble than the other two.

Like the 1939 film it's based on, The Women is about four best friends, though it's predominantly concerned with Mary Haines. Mary (Meg Ryan) maintains the faηade of a perfect life, but in fact, her marriage is falling apart. Things grow even more unpleasant when her friend Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening) discovers that Mary's husband is having an affair with a perfume girl (Eva Mendes) at Saks Fifth Avenue. In addition to trying to keep this from Mary, Sylvie faces problems of her own when her authority is questioned at the magazine she works for. Meanwhile, flaky hippie Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) is pregnant with her fifth child, and tomboyish night owl Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith) is coping with an anger management-struggling partner.

Mary Haines (Meg Ryan) tries to take comfort in the nutritious snack of a butter stick dipped in cocoa powder and dunked in milk. Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), Alex Fisher (Jada Pinkett Smith), and Edie Cohen (Debra Messing) are blown away by the sight of "Spritzer girl" Crystal Allen.

Having not seen the original film, it's difficult to say how this one works as an adaptation. That's probably to the remake's benefit, however, as it can be evaluated on its own terms as opposed to having live up to its source.

The best thing The Women has going for it is its noteworthy cast. Not only are the leads all recognizable stars, but familiar faces feature in many of the supporting roles as well. This acts as both a pro and a con. On one hand, the talent involved lends the film some credibility, and all turn in exceptional performances, particularly Annette Bening as the self-centered businesswoman. On the other hand, most of the actresses are underutilized. This is especially glaring for both Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith. Edie seems to exist only to give the story an easy climax and Alex serves no purpose at all other to act as the token black lesbian. While the focus on Mary and Sylvie allows them room to develop, it comes at the expense of the others.

Mary (Meg Ryan) confronts her husband's mistress (Eva Mendes) while both try on lingerie in a dressing room. Gossipy manicurist Tanya (Debi Mazar) is all ears as Sylvie (Annette Bening) and Mary (Meg Ryan) spill some orchestrated dirt.

Another problem, which is really more of an oddity, lies in the decision to take the film's title literally. There's not a single man to be found at all in the picture. As in the original film, even all of the background extras are women. Sex and the City and Sisterhood both had difficulty making their male characters more than human props for the leading ladies to act against. The Women's decision to eliminate men admittedly avoids this pitfall, but it serves as a distraction. It almost pulls off the fancy, especially towards the beginning.
As it progresses, though, the movie keeps fumbling to find new ways to avoid seeing men. An intense, pivotal argument between Mary and her husband is never shown but instead told verbatim from one supporting character to another. Scenes like this reveal the concept to be little more than gimmick.

Despite the issues at hand, The Women actually does provide decent entertainment. The dialogue is fresh and snappy and the performers breathe life into the proceedings, even if many have minimal screen time. The film just doesn't dig as deeply as one would like, and this wouldn't be a problem if it were blatantly frothy. Instead, it tries to uncover layers that are rarely realized in full. It's an above average diversion and a harmless way to spend two hours, but one can't help but feel that it should've been more substantial than that with the talent involved.

Buy The Women (2008) on DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen,
1.33:1 Reformatted Fullscreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English),
Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: December 21, 2008
Double-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $19.96 (Reduced from $27.98)
Black Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc
Buy The Women (Anita Boothe Luce's original 1936 play) from Amazon.com


The Women comes to DVD with a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer on one side and a cropped/open matte 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer on the other. The image on the widescreen version is solid overall. Sharpness is a bit of problem, particularly in long shots. There's also a bit of minor mosquito noise prevalent, though it's not a terrible distraction. Colors seem naturally warm, and the image is clean of any print flaws.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround soundtrack is as satisfactory as one could hope for from a film of this nature. The front-heavy dialogue is clean, while the score helps liven up the surrounds. Some ambient sound effects come up from time to time, but they, too, are usually centered towards the front.

Writer/director Diane English discusses a number of topics pertaining to both her version of "The Women" and the two that preceded it. Minnesota junior journalist Cammy Nelson talks about insecurities with India Ennenga, the youngest actress of 2008's "The Women." Bette Midler's character Leah Miller shares some marijuana-fueled wisdom in an extended version of her little cameo.


The disc's light offering of supplements begins with "The Women: The Legacy" (18:45). Here, writer/director Diane English explains her approach to updating a classic for modern times while the actresses share some of their own thoughts.

The portions that directly compare individual scenes from both versions elevate this featurette beyond EPK material into something more adequate.

Next comes "The Women Behind The Women" (10:00). This piece follows 16-year-old junior journalist Cammy Nelson as she explores the set and interviews cast and crew members. It alternates between a promotional special and a preachy infomercial about inner beauty. The conglomeration makes this slightly bizarre.

Finally, there are two additional scenes (6:24). The first wouldn't have added much except to explain why a certain gossipy character knew as much as she did. The second seems more vital in that it not only adds some development for both Mary and Sylvie, but it gives some closure to a cameo appearance that feels too short in the finished film. No introduction or commentary is included to explain why these were cut.

Upon insertion of the disc, several ads run. These include Warner's Casablanca anti-piracy spot, a promo for Warner titles on Blu-ray, trailers for He's Just Not That Into You and Nights in Rodanthe, and an anti-smoking ad.

The menus don't show much creativity. All of them contain static publicity shots of the cast, with only the main menu featuring any sort of musical accompaniment. The dual-sided disc comes housed in a standard black Amaray case, devoid of any inserts.

The Women ends with a birthing scene that draws its four leading ladies to the film's first and only onscreen male. Three generations of Haines women (India Ennenga, Meg Ryan, and Candice Bergen) soak in the sun by a scenic New England coast and lighthouse.


The Women is a decent piece of fluff. It can't quite seem to latch onto to the evasive ground that balances humor and drama evenly, and it has more characters and actresses than it knows what to do with. It's really the cinematic equivalent of cotton candy: mildly enjoyable, but not really filling. The same can be said of the DVD itself. Image and sound are good not great, and while there are good bits to be gleamed, the extras don't make much of an impression. It's worth a rental for those curious, but otherwise, this year's two superior films about four female friends are more rewarding.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Buy Blu-ray / The Original Movie: The Women (1939)

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Reviewed December 15, 2008.

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