What Women Want
(Click here for Internet Movie Database entry)

This movie has a great idea and some inspired casting. It takes Mel Gibson, well known macho guy, on and off the screen, and allows him to hear what women are thinking.  It sounds great in theory but in practice, it doesn't quite work. What Women Want has some pretty good moments and Mel Gibson puts in one of the great performances of his career but it's not enough to make this film completely successful.   The plot, other than the great idea, is a bit pedestrian. Gibson plays a macho, almost prehistoric, guy who works for an Ad agency and is famous for his ads that appeal to men. You can guess what's in them. Suddenly, the head of the agency realizes that women are a more important demographic than men and decides to pass over Gibson and hire a woman (Helen Hunt) to be the Creative Director.  Needless to say, Gibson sets about trying to sabotage Hunt by stealing her ideas and making them his.  This becomes a lot easier when Gibson falls into the bathtub with his hairdryer, gets zapped, and wakes up to find out that he can read minds, but only the female ones.  This film is set in the present day but I think this agency would have already gone out of business if they are just realizing where their real demographics are. And there are certainly still guys like Gibson's character around although they've mostly gone underground.  So the setup is a bit dated.  Nevertheless, Gibson does a great job playing both his original macho self and then as the movie goes on, his new persona where he is in touch with his feminine side.  Hunt is not so successful. I love her but she seems a bit uncomfortable throughout this movie.  She showed in As Good As It Gets that she can stand up to an intimidating actor (Jack Nicholson). So I put it down to a lack of chemistry between her and Gibson.  There are three problems with the story. The first is that once Gibson has his gift of reading the female mind, he changes overnight into a sensitive guy.  It would have been a lot more interesting if we could have seen some struggle, some evolution from Neanderthal to girlie-man.  The second thing is that with one exception, no one thinks it at all odd that Gibson's character has completely changed overnight.  The one exception is his daughter (Ashley Johnson) who won't accept his new personality and calls him on it. As a result, their relationship is the most interesting one in the movie.   Johnson does a very good job as the neglected daughter.  The last inconsistency is that even after Gibson has supposedly changed, he still treats everyone like shit. He goes out once with the woman behind the counter at the coffee shop (Marisa Tomei) and then never calls her again.  And he forgets his daughter's Prom night. By the way, Tomei is great in her little role. I hope she can find a better part. She is always good but since her early successful roles in films like My Cousin Vinny and The Paper, she has fallen on hard times.  There are a lot of other familiar faces in small roles including Alan Alda, Bette Midler, Lauren Holly, Valerie Perrine, and Delta Burke.  Also, the climax of the movie, i.e., the classic ``boy loses girl, boy gets girl back", all takes place in one scene and makes no sense.  Besides the story problems, the writing isn't snappy enough for this kind of romantic comedy. The film relies too much on slapstick comedy to produce the laughs.  The film is produced and directed without much imagination by Nancy Meyers whose only other directing credit is the new version of The Parent Trap. What Women Want is saved to the extent it can be by the force of Mel Gibson's acting.  He puts it all out there and produces his most enjoyable character since Conspiracy Theory.  So far this year, we have seen some very enjoyable movies about what men want in The Wonder Boys, High Fidelity and The Tao of Steve. We are still waiting to find out What Women Want.