Sibling rivalry reaches epic heights in Curtis Hanson’s new girly drama In Her Shoes. The movie bounces between two sisters, Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose (Toni Collette), who look nothing alike and have opposite, clashing personalities. Maggie is a gorgeous party girl who can barely hold down a job, and Rose is a shy lawyer with a few pounds to spare. With nothing obvious to bond them besides DNA, they do manage to find one common ground—an affinity for expensive and fashionable shoes.
Since building a functional bond based solely on Manolo Blahniks is impossible, they encounter a series of problems. When Maggie is booted from yet another home over her reckless, drunken stupors, she invites herself to crash on Rose’s couch. She is like the adorable puppy you bring into your house, only to discover she has peed on every inch of the floor and shredded your favorite blankets. Rose suspects her new houseguest is weighing her down, and these suspicions are confirmed when she discovers her getting jiggy with her hunky infatuation, Jim (Richard Burgi). Maggie is kicked out—a way overdue action—and hunts for a new family member to burden.
After finding old birthday cards that were hidden by her father, Maggie learns that she has a long lost grandmother named Ella (Shirley MacLaine) living in Florida. She hops on a plane and shows up at her doorstep. Ella is bogged down by guilt over her daughter’s death years ago, and lives in a residential community for senior citizens. The two of them manage to find a degree of solace in each other, sorely lacking from their lives. Several states away, Rose is finally able to shine with her sister no longer blocking her dreams like an overbearing eclipse.
Shirley MacLaine is a phenomenal actress and it’s great to see her back in movies again, wrinkles and all. Whether or not she truly believes she was Joan of Arc in a past life, the lady has talent. The best scenes in the movie involve her with her quick one-liners and expressive eyes. Toni Collette has never turned in a bad performance, and her portrayal of Rose is no exception. There is something so earnest and real about her that makes her feel more like an old friend than a Hollywood actress. Cameron Diaz, while doing some solid acting herself, plays a very irritating character that you’ll want to shoo away like a gnat.
The most annoying scenes in the movie are between Maggie and Rose. Like real sisters, they share love but also a desire to wring each other’s necks. It’s not enjoyable to watch, partially because it’s uncomfortably realistic. Luckily, most of In Her Shoes is spent with the sisters apart, growing independently, and that works strongly in its favor. There are only so many catfights you can witness before it grows tiresome, and the girls work best when they’re not together. On the contrary, the romantic scenes between Rose and Simon (Mark Feuerstein) are a true delight, unlike most movies of this nature. His dweeby cuteness provides a healthy balance of humor to contrast Rose’s sullenness. Thank heavens for side characters.
Curtis Hanson hasn’t come close to matching L.A. Confidential or Wonder Boys with his last two films, which is a shame. But to his credit, he has created a girl-bonding movie that’s not as bad as you might expect. Rather than just portraying vapid female characters that sit around gabbing about celebrity gossip and drinking martinis, In Her Shoes gives them slightly more depth. You can see the characters evolving over time and changing into better people, with help from their surroundings. The problem is that it’s truly challenging to root for a family to come back together when they clearly are better off apart. Maybe that theme is just a bit too heavy for a Friday night out with the girls.