Great performances but a flawed script in this spotty romantic dramedy by director Jon Kasdan
In the Land of Women is the directorial debut of writer Jon Kasdan, son of mega-writer/director Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Raiders of the Lost Ark). It tells the story of Carter Webb (Adam Brody), a 26-year-old soft-core porn writer in LA whose glamorous girlfriend dumps him. Carter decides that the best thing to do is to take a little break from his life, so he heads off to suburban Michigan to take care of his ailing grandmother.
When he gets there, he becomes wrapped up in the lives of the neighbors across the street - mom Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan) and her daughters Lucy (Kristen Stewart) and Paige (Makenzie Vega).
In the Land of Women is a mixed bag. The characters in the story are rich, quirky, detailed and fantastic, but the storyline itself could have used some major overhauling. The subplots threaten to take over the main story. There are lots of scenes that don't feel like they're moving the plot forward at all, others that don't have enough foundation, and still others that are tremendously predictable.
In particular, the scenes where Carter and Sarah go for their "walks and talks" around the neighborhood are problematic, to say the least. They skip almost any normal small talk and immediately start revealing their innermost thoughts and troubles, like people who have known each other, hell, for at least a couple of hours. These chats also go on at length, so instead of actually seeing these things revealed about the characters, you just listen to them comment on themselves.
Since it's Meg Ryan, the homage to When Harry Met Sally element of it is nice, but long, unrealistic conversations shouldn't really be the cornerstone of a movie. Plus, her face at this point is botoxed nearly beyond all recognition giving the woman who was once known for her sweet, warm, girl-next-door quality an oddly cold, distinctly un-maternal edge. I also thought Kristen Stewart (Catch That Kid, Panic Room) with her hard, tomboyish quality was odd casting as the popular, football-hunk-dating older Hardwicke daughter.
On the other hand, Olympia Dukakis (Steel Magnolias, Moonstruck) is amazing and hilarious as Carter's grandma Phyllis. People are always saying how terrific she is, and you can really see it here. And little Makenzie Vega (Sin City, X-Men: The Last Stand) was terrific as the precocious younger sister Paige.
But without question the real gem of this movie is Adam Brody. Not having watched The O.C. before, I was unfamiliar with his charms. But In the Land of Women changed all that. Within seconds of him being on the screen, I got what all the fuss was about: Brody has an inner quality that dominates the screen. He is the epitome of the trustworthy, funny, approachable, but magnetic nice guy that you would marry in a second if he really existed. It was like Tom Hanks and John Cusack had a love child. And it was stunning.
I can't recommend seeing In the Land of Women on the merits of its story alone. But if you're into Adam Brody, you'll be in for a nice performance. I foresee big things in that gent's future.