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In the Land of Women

In the Land of Women

Director:Jon Kasdan
Release Date:2007

Opens April 20

By John Barry | Posted 4/18/2007

Twentysomething Los Angeles screenwriter Carter (Adam Brody) is going through a creative and romantic dry spell. So he decides to write a screenplay about himself--and the process of writing that screenplay becomes the plot of the movie he's in. In the Land of Women is a movie about writing a movie.

Said screenwriter gets a little tired of L.A. life. He goes to the American heartland--an anonymous Michigan town--where he falls in earnest conversation with an older woman, Sarah (Meg Ryan), who lives across the street. But just as the sparks fly between them, Carter takes her daughter, Lucy (Kristen Stewart), out on a date, just to be nice. They get to know one another and, suddenly, Sarah peeks out the window and catches them kissing. She's pissed, and tells her daughter not to go near him again.

If that scenario doesn't ring any bells, you're likely part of the target audience for Land of Women. But if it makes you think of The Graduate, imagine that movie without any social reference points, and with characters who are too plugged into their iMacs, iPods, or cell phones to get into bed with one another. In the occasional unplugged moments of direct contact they wind up coming up with observations such as "I find myself wondering, ?What am I?'" or "Maybe I could be doing more with my life."

This isn't about existential anomie, though. It's about Brody's low-level passive-reactive heartthrob, the sort of guy you'd like to eat pizza with on your first night out without worrying about date rape. He's also the sort of guy a mom would want to go out with, apparently. He maintains a bland, sympathetic presence as an empathetic variable who doesn't rock the boat.

Judging from the title, though, this is supposed to be a tribute to the fairer sex. Too bad they all feel a little lost. Sarah spends most of her time wondering what Lucy is doing with Carter. Instead of telling her, director Jon Kasdan focuses on her eyes, which generally are welling up with tears. As Lucy's older daughter, Stewart is the hot one, and Makenzie Vega is the 11-year-old brainy one, who spouts three- and four-syllable words and Googles her mom's breast cancer. Olympia Dukakis plays Carter's crotchety grandmother and injects a spark of originality into the movie; unfortunately, Kasdan kills her off.

This movie isn't romantic comedy and it isn't drama; it's a 98-minute slow leak. It's also the work of a young director born and raised in the Hollywood template, and who got this chance probably with the help of his Oscar-nominated father, Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill), the movie's executive producer. Jon's brother Jake also has entered the directing trade. Perhaps the family Kasdan is aiming for a filmmaking dynasty, but with In the Land of Women it doesn't look that way right now.

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