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Adam Brody……….Carter Webb
Kristen Stewart……….Lucy Hardwicke
Meg Ryan……….Sarah Hardwicke
JoBeth Williams……….Agnes Webb
Makenzie Vega……….Paige Hardwicke
Elena Anaya……….Sofia BuÃ±uel
Clark Gregg……….Nelson Hardwicke
Elena Dustin Milligan……….Eric Watts
Graham Wardle……….Gabe Foley
Despite the title, In the Land of Women has a surprisingly large set of balls. It would have been easy and predictable for the film to subject viewers to the typical romantic comedy routine. However, the love shared between each point of the proverbial love triangle is more complex than one would expect. It is satisfying to see interpersonal relationships that ring true rather than two people falling for each other because the plot dictates that they will.
Admittedly, connections are made quickly, especially between Carter (Adam Brody) and Sarah (Meg Ryan), but the relaxed chemistry the characters share makes such hastiness forgivable. Ryan still has it after all these years; it was a joy to see Sarah vie for Carter’s attention rather than coaching her daughter, Lucy (Kristen Stewart), from the sideline. Better still, it made sense within the context. In fact, nothing in In the Land of Women feels forced. Even the ending is blissfully ambiguous.
It is a fitting close to a movie that relishes its shades of gray. Director Jon Kasdan shows confidence in his viewers’ ability to draw their own conclusions. Kasdan’s firm belief in his story encourages the viewer to believe in it too. Not only does it seem plausible that 17-year-old Lucy and forty-something (and married) Sarah would both fall for 26-year-old Carter, it feels right. If only it were realistic for him to end up with both.
The fact that Carter can’t makes In the Land of Women more exciting than most films of its ilk. Credit the three leads for making the audience want to cheer each of their respective characters. A happy ending appears unlikely, and that is a brave approach given the film’s target audience. All advertising suggests that teenage girls should come live vicariously through Stewart as she gets close to Brody.
While said closeness does occur, it is not all hearts and ponies for the couple. Those who are weary of love’s ways will appreciate the weight that is given to Lucy and Carter’s relationship without having it turn into sappy nonsense. Kasdan guards closely against unrealistic love story elements from seeping in; something that the age difference should have given away from the get-go.
If it seems like the age of the characters is a sticking point, it is because it should prove to be the hardest part of the film for viewers to rationalize. The gravity and suspense the age difference adds is equaled only by the distraction it creates. Those who think hard about what lies ahead will know what should happen and be worried about what could happen. Others will be left to decide what outcome would make them feel less icky.
Whatever the conclusion, it is a testament to everyone involved that In the Land of Women has its audience thinking at all. But Ryan deserves most of the accolades; she could do romance in her sleep, but she gives one of her best efforts here. Ryan may want to work in other genres, but there is still a lot she can do for this one. While Hollywood hopelessly searches for the heir to her thrown, she could still wear the crown if she so desired. It doesn’t hurt that the Land which she rules over has the good sense (and the balls) to use Ryan as more than just a mother whose daughter is in love.
FINAL RATING (ON A SCALE OF 1-5 BUCKETS):