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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that What Women Want is a 2000 romantic comedy in which Mel Gibson is a sexist ad executive who gains the ability to read women's minds. Initially, Gibson's character uses this ability to manipulate a coffee barista he has a crush on into having sex with him. He makes inappropriate jokes about women and sex while in the workplace. He walks in on his teen daughter reclined on the couch with her boyfriend as the boyfriend is about to touch her breasts. It's later revealed that the boyfriend, who is 18, is trying to use the prom as a way to coerce the lead character's daughter, who is 15, into having sex with him. The lead character tries talking to his daughter about sex and why it's important to understand the consequences. Some profanity is heard: "s--t," "a--hole," "pr--k," "bitch," and "crap." Cigarette smoking occurs in many scenes. The lead character smokes cigars throughout the movie and is often shown getting drunk on wine in his apartment.
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What's the story?
WHAT WOMEN WANT stars Mel Gibson as Nick Marshall, a Chicago ad exec who is successful at work and with the ladies, whom he wheedles and charms but never really thinks about. Nick is promoted to Creative Director and gets a new boss, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt). The ad agency needs to appeal to women consumers, so Darcy hands out products for the staff to explore, and Nick does his best, experimenting with mascara, leg wax, nail polish, and exfoliator. But an accidental near-electrocution leaves him with a new power: the ability to hear women's thoughts. At first horrified, Nick realizes that there are some real advantages to being the only straight man in the world who knows how women think. He uses it to manipulate women, including Darcy and a pretty coffee shop waitress (Marisa Tomei). But it turns out that women don't think about Nick the way that he thought they did, and he's forced to think about himself in a new way. Nick has never listened to women before, but now he can't help it. He sees the damage that he has done, and he begins to correct it. And of course he begins to fall in love with Darcy and to connect to his 15-year-old daughter.
Is it any good?
Mel Gibson shows us just what women want in his first-ever romantic comedy. Whether he's dancing to Frank Sinatra in his apartment, watching his daughter try on prom dresses, or just reacting to snippets of thoughts he hears from girls, women, and even female dogs as he walks down the street, he's delightful. He has the physical grace of a leading man and the timing and unselfconsciousness of a comic. The script sags in places, and the sexist office scenes are terribly dated, but Gibson keeps the movie floating in the clouds.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why it's hard for men and women to figure each other out, and how they might do better.
What are some of the sexist workplace behaviors Gibson's character displays that would be intolerable under any circumstances today? What are some other aspects of the workplace scenes that seem dated?
How does the movie address serious topics such as teen sex, or how to help someone who is struggling with depression?
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