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What Women Want

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: What Women Want

Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt
Director: Nancy Meyers
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: December 2000
Genre: Comedy

*Also starring: Alan Alda, Delta Burke, Ana Gasteyer, Lauren Holly, Bette Midler, Marisa Tomei, Mark Feuerstein

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Despite the sci-fi concept of a man temporarily given the ability to read women's minds and consequently to know what they really desire, "What Women Want" is a conventional, sappy romantic comedy, a retread of the usual relationships explored by the film industry. Fathers often make misconnections with their teenaged daughters, male executives with their female assistants, husband with wives. The strange thing about this movie helmed by Nancy Meyers is that despite the extraordinary power given to advertising executive Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) literally to know what every woman around him is thinking, Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa's script contains not a single detail that we in the audience do not already know. We learn that a dress is the most important item of concern to a fifteen-year-old girl invited to the senior prom by her boyfriend. We find out that a woman with a reputation for bitchiness who has been hired as creative director of an ad agency is not a bitch at all, and that a T&A man can, under the proper circumstances, become a sensitive listener with a newly found respect for women after learning what they really think of him. By reading the mind of a server of coffee in a Chicago building's lobby, we find out that she does not like being rejected. Now, those of you who do not have the ability to read women's minds...which of these notions did you not already know?

Filmed in Chicago, principally in the offices of a midtown ad agency directed by an apprehensive Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda) and in Nick's spacious condo, the story gains impetus from Wanamaker's attempt to revive a lagging business by snagging the coveted Nike women's sneakers account. Needing a creative director who understands the way a woman thinks, he bypasses Nick for the promotion, instead going with the assertive director of a competing agency, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt)--who then works closely with Nick as her subordinate. Little does Darcy know that because of a freak accident with a hair dryer, Nick has been given the novel ability to hear what women think, a power he uses both to steal Darcy's ideas and to listen in to both the compliments he is secretly given by women for his sexiness and the insults by those who think he's a jerk and worse. To counteract his reputation as a macho man who never really listens to the females in his life, he raises his antennas to find out what these folks really want and then, showing great sensitivity to their needs, he gives it to them--changing their opinions of him for the better.

Though essentially a comedy, "What Women Want" pulls almost mercilessly on the heartstrings as Nick takes action to prevent the suicide of an office worker he'd ignored and to service a coffee worker who in the past needed to fake orgasms which she heretofore was unable to achieve because of her partners' lack of tenderness. Mel Gibson relies on his usual mannerisms--rolling eyes, revolving head, nice-guy smile, to convey his emotions to a movie audience that is unable to read minds, while Helen Hunt, a fine performer not always fortunate in her choice of films, does not convince us that she's head over heels with her co- worker. During the two kissing scenes, Dean Cundey's camera tries to make up for their lack of chemistry by presenting their embrace from various angles while music supervisor Bonnie Greenberg-Goodman pumps up the great classics like "Night and Day" whether or not the Cole Porter song or several others have much relationship to the tale. Too bad an uncredited Bette Midler is on camera for precious few minutes.

The one scene that gives away director Nancy Meyer's attempt to appeal to an adolescent mentality involves Nick's being caught by his daughter and her boy friend while dressing in a woman's panty-hose, shaving his legs, and donning nail polish--all in the service of researching a woman's psyche by becoming as close to a woman himself as he dares. If that encourages you to roar with laughter, this is the movie for you.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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