What Women Want
© 2000-2010 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

      Sigmund Freud once pondered the question of what women want. Well, if
People magazine's sexiest man of the year (vintage 1985) Mel Gibson, they
are in luck. In the romantic comedy called appropriately enough
, Gibson plays a male chauvinist advertising executive who has a freak
accident that leaves him with the ability to literally hear the thoughts of every
female with whom he comes in contact. Sounds promising, no?

      Well, in execution, it's an okay concoction, sort of like
TOOTSIE without
the drag. The basic problem is that Gibson's character of Nick Marshall is such a
smug, disgusting person, it's not believable he would have been on the executive
track. I know that advertising is still somewhat Of an "old boys" network, but the
rude, sexist comments Marshall is shown making in today's workplace would have
engendered a host of lawsuits (for sexual harassment and contributing to a
hostile work environment). I know. I know. It's only a movie, and he's being set
up as such so his transformation has resonance, but if the character is
unbelievable from the start, the whole premise falls apart.

      Nick Marshall is supposedly on the fast track to a promotion until the
company's board decides that women consumers are being overlooked and opt
to hire Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt) from a rival firm. Again, the casting proves
fatal. Darcy is built up as a sort of man-eating dragon lady, a bitch on wheels.
Whether she was unable or unwilling to depict such a female, Hunt projects
a lightness and sweetness that flies in the face of the character's reputation.
Instead of projecting the brittleness she brought to her role in
WOMEN the actress falls back on her TV persona, perhaps because this film
purports to be an out-and-out romantic comedy. (A further nail is the distinct lack
of romantic chemistry between the two leads.)

      Director Nancy Meyers has to be held accountable for the film's faults. While
the screenplay is credited to real-life unmarried couple Josh Goldsmith and Cathy
Yuspa (writers for the TV sitcom
King of Queens), Meyers reportedly did a
complete rewrite, although the Writers' Guild rejected her request for an on
screen credit. Her efforts are far from entertaining (there are a couple of
offensive "gay" joke, among other transgressions) but the cardinal sins are
twofold: much of the action is neither romantic nor comic, and the talents of
many fine performers are profligately squandered.

      Marisa Tomei continues to struggle to find another film role worthy of her
talents and is here underused as an aspiring actress with self-esteem issues who
falls for Gibson's smooth talker. Lauren Holly barely registers as Gibson's ex-wife
while Valerie Perrine and Delta Burke are totally wasted as Gibson's vacuous
personal assistants. Even Alan Alda as the agency's head appears to be just
collecting a paycheck.

WHAT WOMEN WANT is a conventional but bland movie. All I can say is that
if this movie is indeed what women want, the world is in a much more tenuous
place than I ever imagined.

Rating:                 D
                      MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for sexual content and language
Running time:      127 mins.