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Reviewing the reviews: 'In the Land of Women'

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Women_lOh, what I wouldn’t give to put America’s film reviewers in a big room and let them duke it out over Jonathan Kasdan’s feature debut, In the Land of Women. For every one that enjoyed the Adam Brody-Meg Ryan vehicle (USA Today gives it three out of four stars) you’ll find one who abhorred it (like EW’s own Owen Gleiberman, who gives it an F in his brief but scathing review). Heck, critics appear to be split on details as wide-ranging as Kasdan’s inspirations, the film’s emotional impact, and whether or not Brody is worthy of leaping from The O.C. to a big-screen leading role. But don’t take my word for it; check out the reviewer imbroglio below, and if you see the movie this weekend, swing by the comments section and tell us which critics got it right.

addCredit(“In the Land of Women: Liane Hentscher“)

Should we believe James Verniere of the Boston Herald, who says “Kasdan’s feature-film debut is reminiscent both of The Graduate in obvious ways, but also of the work of Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) in terms of his ability to create characters you care about”? Or is it more accurate to say In the Land of Women is Michigan’s answer to Garden State, as Richard Roeper contends in the Chicago Sun-Times? Then again, Wesley Morris, of the Boston Globewould disagree with both, arguing the “movie seems very much theproduct of someone who has never left Los Angeles… and who hasexperienced life by watching it in John Hughes movies and on Fox.Indeed, every young person in this film uses the halting,self-conscious speech that was a hallmark of a show like Party of Five.”

As for overall impact, is it that the movie “bangs us over the head withsentimental platitudes about love and loyalty and leaves nothing openfor the audience’s interpretation,” as the Associated Press’ Christy Lemirefeels? Or does it have “enough good stuff to redeem itself, over andover” from its obvious clichés, as Liz Braun writes in the London [Ontario] Free Press?Or does the movie deserve more credit for genuine sentiment? So contends the Toronto Star‘s SusanWalker, who says,” This potentially saccharine weepy has an authentic ring, thanks to JonKasdan’s script and a cast capable of delivering clever lines thatsound just about right for whatever situation they’re in.”

What about the film’s star? If you believe the New York Post‘s Kyle Smith, Brody is “a sort of less-rugged version of Rachel Bilson,” and Bill White of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer concurs that he’s “an unconvincing romantic lead.” On the other hand, TV Guide‘s Ken Fox says Brody displays “real leading-man potential,” and the Washington Post‘s Desson Thomson calls him “particularly appealing.”

One element critics seemed to agree on, however, was Meg Ryan’s plumped-up lips. “The audience gasps when [Ryan]appears. The reason? Her lips are so plumped up she recalls Don Knottsas the man-fish in The Incredible Mr. Limpet,” says Randy Cordova ofthe Arizona Republic. But “once you get past her disturbing, mask-like cosmetic surgery,” says Liam Lacey of the Toronto Globe and Mail, she “offers the film’s most complex performance as a mother facing a soap opera’s worth of problems.”