In The Land Of Women

With 'The O.C.' recently sentenced to death after four seasons of highs (angsty teen love affairs, Sandy Cohen-isms) and lows (cage fighting? really?), actor Adam Brody finds himself at a scary crossroads. Fans love him for his neurotic-yet-endearing portrayal of Seth on the hit series, but in order to channel that affection into a movie career, he’s going to have to show a different, more grown-up side. Namely, he’ll need to prove he can carry a movie.

In The Land Of Women is his first real attempt at this daunting task--but, like everything else in this clumsy, uneven picture, the results are underwhelming. It’s a shame because it’s also a failed gamble for Jon Kasdan, son of Lawrence Big Chill Kasdan, who makes his unsatisfying film writing/directing debut. And Meg Ryan, anxious to work again, is back from the dead, although the current state of her face suggests otherwise.

The story begins with Carter (Brody), a softcore porn writer (no joke), getting dumped by his beautiful, actress girlfriend (Sofia Buñuel) in a Hollywood coffee shop. A group of young girls bounce over to the table to get her autograph as he sulks with tears fogging up his eyes. Realizing a change is in order, he packs up his bags and heads to Michigan to stay with his grumpy, hypochondriac grandma (Olympia Dukakis, providing the film’s few laughs).

Across the street is a family dominated by three women: Sarah (Ryan), a lonely mom recently diagnosed with breast cancer; Lucy (Panic Room’s Kristen Stewart), a popular teenager with a knack for painting; and Paige (Makenzie Vega), the type of precocious kid that speaks like she’s on 'Dawson’s Creek', one of Kasdan’s prior writing credits. The sole man in the house is the ill-fleshed-out husband that is given no personality trait outside of "cheater."

In The Land Of Women attempts to be a chick flick that revolves around a sensitive male lead, something that distinguishes it from the droves of other pseudo-romantic movies. But there is nothing about it that rings true--it’s a huge misfire that falsely parades around like something important. You know you’re in trouble when Sarah says, "I don’t want to look back on my life and wonder which part belonged to me," and it’s intended to be wildly profound.

Sadly, that’s only scratching the surface of the pretense. In typical movie form, she does the empowering "self-haircut" in front of the mirror when it begins to fall out. There’s yet another passionate kiss in the rain (don’t characters ever check the forecast?). And, naturally, a moment where one girl spins the car around when she realizes she loves someone.

The fact that the film tries to be The Graduate (May-December flirtations) meets Garden State (stunted 20-something bogged down by life) just makes its failure all the more apparent. It frankly has more in common with TV’s similarly inept "writer tries to find himself" saga 'October Road.'

Suddenly, 'The O.C.' isn’t looking so misguided.