Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by:Susannah Grant
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Feuerstein
Released: October 13, 2005
Grade: A-

There’s a familiar saying that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.  It’s the perfect analogy to describe the relationship between sisters Maggie (Diaz) and Rose (Collette).  They are as different as chalk and cheese but there’s an unbreakable connection between them that has come with spending their entire lives together.

Rose lives in a nice apartment and has a high-paying job with a law firm.  She has have the image of success of Rose can find the negative in any positive.  Always self-conscious about her appearance, she is still looking for the right guy to build a life with.  Her idea of a good night is lying alone in bed, watching television and eating potato chips.

Maggie has never had a serious job.  She’s a party girl who has mooched off many guys and never settled down.  She still lives at home with her father whose patience is wearing a little thin.  Maggie’s ideal night out would see her wearing a skimpy outfit, hitting the nightclubs and looking to go home with a good-looking guy.

When Maggie is kicked out of the house by her father and step-mother, she lobs on Rose’s doorstep looking for a place to live.  Two events soon follow though which will change their relationship.  Firstly, Maggie learns they have a living grandmother named Ella (MacLaine) who lives in Hollywood.  Her father had always told her she was dead.  The second event will shatter Rose and Maggie’s relationship and if you haven’t seen the trailer, I won’t spoil it for you.

The result is that Rose and Maggie’s worlds are turned upside down.  Maggie heads to Florida to meet her long-lost grandmother and hopefully find someone who can keep funding her swanky lifestyle.  Rose quits her law career and starts walking dogs for a living.  Forced outside their comfort zones, Maggie and Rose soon learn there’s a lot more to be gotten out of life.

I’ve seen few films which do a better job of capturing the essence of what family is all about.  Maggie, Rose and Ella are very interesting characters and the screenwriters have done a great job in defining their flaws.  We can relate to their problems and their differences should strike an emotional cord with the audience.  They were reaching for the tissues at my screening.

The star of the film is Australia’s own Toni Collete and it marks her best performance since Muriel’s Wedding.  She skilfully shows her character’s insecurities without ever overacting.  The other standout is the great Shirley MacLaine (Terms Of Endearment) who gives the film a real boost in the final hour.  She looks so effortless when acting and it’d be nice to see her earn another Academy Award nomination for her role here.  I have a slight qualm with Cameron Diaz but it’s the result of a misstep on the part of the screenwriters.  I just didn’t believe Maggie’s transformation in the later stages and her relationship with the residents of the old folks home was too cute.

I’m a long time fan of director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys, 8 Mile) and those who appreciate the nuances of a good director will see his signature style all through the film.  I love how he doesn’t try to be flashy – he just puts the camera in the perfect position and lets the story and the actors do the work for him.  In Her Shoes is one of the better films I’ve seen in a while.