A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film includes sexual references (images and language); indeed, it opens on fragmented shots of a drunken sexual encounter in a bathroom at high school reunion. Focused on the tensions between two grownup sisters, one a rowdy rebel and the other a prototypical "good girl," the movie pays particular attention to familial conflicts, secrets, and traumatic history (the sisters discuss the mother's suicide, committed when they were children; their father is remarried to a woman who treats them disdainfully). Characters use some crude language, usually in anger or surprise, including multiple uses of the s-word and hell, and slang for sex and genitals. One character reads aloud from a romance novel (including predictable, here comic, references to heaving breasts and sexual passion); and an episode of Sex and the City on TV refers to sexual activity. The rebellious sister wears skimpy clothing, including bikinis and underwear. Characters drink (to the point of vomiting) and smoke. The rebellious sister steals money and other items, sometimes from family members.
What's the story?
Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is something of a ditz, perennially irresponsible, drunk, reckless, and promiscuous. Her sister Rose (Toni Collette) is a workaholic lawyer in Philadelphia who's just started to date her boss, even though he has a reputation as a womanizer. Kicked out of their father's (Ken Tucker) home -- where he lives with his second wife, the odious Sydelle (Candice Azzara) -- Maggie moves in to Rose's apartment, but then Rose kicks her out, too. Maggie travels to Florida, where she establishes a relationship with their grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacClaine). While Maggie is building a life for herself, Rose is realizing she needs to make changes, too.
Is it any good?
Although frequently formulaic and often slick, IN HER SHOES nevertheless features some strong performances, emotional conflicts, and heartwarming reconciliations. The sisters' conflicts are deeply rooted, of course. They interact primarily by way of snapless one-liners, as when Rose suggests Maggie look for a job ("There's a whole world of commerce out there that has nothing to do with sex") or Maggie uncleverly deplores her sister's fashion sensibility ("1994 called; it wants its hair scrunchy back"). The sisters' most prominent shared interest is shoes, as objects of desire and signs of emotional stability. Rose has a closet full of them, expensive, neatly arranged and mostly un-worn ("Shoes always fit," she says, "I treat myself when I feel bad"). But where Rose preserves shoes, Maggie wants to wear them; as soon as Rose leaves for work, Maggie going through her closet, picking the most stiletto heels and outrageous boots. When Maggie commits a predictable act of (sexual) betrayal, Rose demands that she leave.
Their road to reunion thus takes a detour, as Maggie moves to Florida, where the girls' proud, cynical, and engaging grandmother lives in a retirement community. Following initial tensions between, Maggie and Ella come to appreciate their similarities (stubbornness, insecurity posing as arrogance, anger refitted as independence). Maggie's swimwear makes her a big hit among the men at poolside, and her ability to shop for others -- framed as a career-worthy talent -- wins favor with the ladies. The film eventually allows the three women to come together, better understanding themselves in relation to one another and their shared sensibilities.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sisters' long-term, mutual resentments and distrusts. How does the sisters' competition for attention shape their relationship? How can they reconcile with one another by sharing basic truths? (The fact that Maggie's dyslexia has remained undiagnosed all her life is especially troubling.) How does the father's dishonesty about his troubles with their mother and her mother/their grandmother also a source of conflict?
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