In the Land of Women

Director: Jonathan Kasdan

Following in the footsteps of his impressive father Lawrence (Body Heat, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist) and brother Jake (Zero Effect), Jonathan Kasdan makes his cinematic debut with In the Land of Women. From the studio's erroneous previews, the film appeared to audiences like a teen-friendly comedy in the vein of Elizabethtown and Garden State as we meet yet another twenty-seven year old man at a crossroads who returns to his roots to evaluate his life. Adam Brody-- that memorable actor with a unique delivery for dialogue that made him steal every scene he was in opposite Dennis Quaid in the Weitz brothers’s In Good Company and during the Hollywood sequence of Thank You for Smoking-- stars as Carter Web, a screenwriter who makes a dispassionate living writing adult movies. As the film opens, Carter is dumped by his successful, smart and beautiful, Spanish actress girlfriend and tries to fight tears as teenage girls beg for his now ex girlfriend's autograph. Sensing a dead-end and lack of inspiration in his work which frankly just pays the bills-- Carter tells his mother (JoBeth Williams) that he will fly out to Michigan to stay with his elderly grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) who is suffering from dementia. By this point, the comedic previews start to replay in our heads as we meet another set of characters and hope for a humorous diversion only to realize that we’re in for more depression as we encounter Sarah (Meg Ryan), a beautiful but less than happy housewife dealing with both a breast cancer scare and her challenging teenage daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart). Ryan is excellent in one of her best-written roles in years and her scenes with Brody provide the film’s heart and humor as the two unhappy souls begin spending time with one another going for walks and grocery shopping while bonding over their theories, regrets and ambitions, only for their relationship to get even more complicated when he becomes the confidant of her daughter as well. While the film is much more devastatingly sad than one was prepared for, despite the misleading previews, it’s best to approach the film without any of the advertising in mind for, as is the Kasdan family trademark, Jonathan proves adept at mixing both the joy and pain in life with earnest, thoughtful characters who feel much more worthy of our investment than the average one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs usually served up by Hollywood. Cameron Crowe fans will relish in another intriguing highly verbal male character who, like John Cusack’s Lloyd in Say Anything, feels more at home in the company of women as the title of Kasdan’s film implies and while the finished result does not provide quite the emotional payoff we were expecting, it’s a very impressive debut and one that makes us look forward to the next work from the director.