Review by Madelyn M. Ritrosky-Winslow
In Her Shoes is the story of Maggie and Rose. Mix in a good dash of a long-lost grandmother, a sweet boyfriend, and a dear old dad and you have a drama about sibling rivalry, insecurities and dysfunctional patterns, and strained family ties and about the redeeming power of love, forgiveness, and acceptance.
Maggie (Cameron Diaz) and Rose Feller (Toni Collette) have a hard road of discovery ahead of them when Maggie, who can’t keep a job and can barely read, temporarily stays with her older attorney sister because she has nowhere else to go. Rose has her work, but her love life until now has been decidedly lacking.
Collette gained weight for this role (she is somewhat chunky here but certainly not fat) because an important part of Rose’s insecurities stems from that all-too-familiar insidious self-image that our culture perpetuates that she has an undesirable body. This partly results from comparing herself to her sister, who is trim and lean. But Maggie only uses her body as a weapon against herself and against her sister.
But even as this character insight is presented to us, we realize that things are out of whack here. Or more accurately, life is not going to proceed as it has, for it’s not Maggie who will find a good-looking guy nor Rose who will be dedicated to her job.
Shirley MacLaine joins the cast a ways into the film as Ella Hirsch, the maternal grandmother long thought dead by her granddaughters. She is an active widow at a retirement community in Florida. Finally, some background is revealed. The film implies that maternal loss at a young age and misguided paternal intentions wrecked some havoc on these sisters as they grew up.
While Rose finds love with Simon (Mark Feuerstein), a co-worker who has already fallen for her, the movie wraps up, of course, with sisterly love. It is Rose and Simon’s wedding that concludes the film, but it’s Maggie’s special poem to Rose during the ceremony that is the dénouement. The last shots are of Rose’s smiling face in Simon’s car (as they drive off to their honeymoon) and Maggie’s satisfied grin as she rejoins the wedding guests on the outdoor dance floor.
The film is an engaging drama with plenty of humorous sprinkles as well as the expected poignant moments. With the disparity between the sister’s lifestyles, personalities, and bodily self-perceptions, I could not help thinking of Bridget Jones. In Bridget Jones’s Diary, Bridget is certainly not fat but she is clearly heavier than typical representations of romantic female leads that is, more of an average woman who gets the guy. In terms of the female body, that film pushes the envelope a bit, without pushing it too far.
In Her Shoes does the same thing. Rose is that same kind of average woman and she gets the guy. But the display of Maggie’s body in numerous shots although obviously serving rhetorical purposes for the story allows the film to have things both ways.
In Her Shoes opens in theaters on Friday, October 7, 2005.