Some mild spoilers follow.
In Her Shoes was an excellent movie.
This was directed by Curtis Hanson, the director of LA Confidential and Wonder Boys among other things.
The main characters, played by Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette and Shirley MacLaine, start as caricatures you’ve seen a million times, but by the time the movie gets going you realize they all have depth, history and multi-dimensions to them. They change, and learn slowly, and Hanson shows their growth mainly through interactions with other characters. . .a real practicioner of “show, don’t tell”.
Toni Collete gave what I consider the best female performance from all of 2005. She was nominated for an Oscar for Sixth Sense but was better in About a Boy. In this role, she blows both of them away. Amazing body language, and voice. The scene where she realizes she’s falling for Simon, she uses her mouth and her eyes so slightly to convey it. I had to watch it twice to confirm she actually moved at all, and yet the change FEELS so powerful. It’s unfortunate that performances in comedies and romances seem to get underrepresented compared to the big dramas (North Country, Constant Gardener, Walk the Line).
She goes through hurt and love and hate and compassion and has a relationship with her sister that goes back many years, and Collette brings the weight of that to the character. Really amazing.
I believe that Diaz gave as good a performance as she’s capable of. I dare you not to get choked up watching the scene where she meets the professor’s grandson. She realizes that maybe for the first time in her life what it’s like to. . .well, you’d have to see it.
Shirley MacLaine is back in the role of stoic mother (grandmother here). She’s excellent too. After mainly just staying in touch with her granddaughters (because the dad doesn’t want her to see them) by sending birthday cards, she tells her friend, “I should have been closer”.
Friend, “well, what could you have done. . .broke the door down?”
MacLaine tells her, “yes” while subtly conveying just how much she means it.
There are also some very funny scenes (e.g. The “Sex and the City” scene, where MacLaine does a perfect, understated “spit take” right back into her Cosmopolitan). Some perfect bittersweet scenes (like when Collette asks the waitress if they’re hiring).
As subtle as the actors are, Hanson really isn’t. The movie is chock full of short scenes that he never really lingers in. It takes on the feel of a Richard Curtis movie where each vignette seems designed just to push the story one notch further along.
If you don’t like ANY romantic comedies (Harry & Sally, Notting Hill, Love Actually, Sleepless in Seattle) you might not like this. You need to give yourself over to a little bit of schmaltz.
But, for a real heart-breaking story, with super performances, you gotta see “In Her Shoes”.