What Women Want

Directed by Nancy Meyers
Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Ashley Johnson, Alan Alda, Lauren Holly.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Review by Matt Heffernan <matt@filmhead.com>
December 16, 2000

After seeing the best and the worst films of the year back-to-back, it was nice to retreat to commercial Hollywood mediocrity. Such films are not really bad, but nothing exceptional for studio fare. It's almost comforting too see What Women Want and watch it go through its charming conventions.

Mel Gibson stars as Nick Marshall, an ad executive in Chicago. After growing up the son of a single Vegas showgirl, Nick had no respect or sympathy for women. His ads were exploitative, which was pure gold ten years ago, but women are now a far more important demographic. His boss, Dan Wanamaker (Alan Alda), was going to promote him to Creative Director, but he decided on taking the recently available Darcy Maguire, the top woman in advertising.

On her first day, she brings a cartload of pink boxes, and hands them out to all the executives. They contain feminine products that are open for ad contracts. Nick reluctantly takes the box home, and after a few drinks decides to try the lipstick, nail polish, hair gel, mascara, and even the leg wax to try to get into a woman's mindset. While trying to blow-dry his hair, he spills some bath beads, and slips into the bathtub with the hair dryer.

When he finally regains consciousness the next morning, he discovers that he can hear the thoughts of any woman he is near. (Guys, it doesn't really work, so don't try this at home.) He uses his new power to steal Darcy's ideas, but he also uses it to win her heart. Only in Hollywood can a man face such a dilemma.

Basically, watching the film is an exercise in trying to figure out how he can admit (not to mention explain) his ploy to take her job, and still end up together for a happy ending. For some reason, the filmmakers decided this exercise should be over two hours long. It's enjoyable, sweet, and awfully cute, but it never ends. The resolution happens within a single, short scene when it could have been the entire third act and kept things moving along quickly. I think somebody needs to take another screenwriting class.

What makes the film watchable, and enjoyable on many levels, is Gibson's performance. He is right at home with a romantic comedy, just as he fits well in action films. Hunt gives a decent performance, but far from her best. She basically supports Gibson, which is odd considering the feminist nature of the film. One would think that they would have wanted a female character to be the strongest.

Then again, I don't know what women want, especially in the case of director Nancy Meyers. This is her second film as director, following the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, which I didn't bother seeing. She has written some very good screenplays, like Private Benjamin and the remake of Father of the Bride. For this film, she wanted a committee of writers at Paramount instead. Or maybe that was what Gibson wanted, considering he produced the film. We may never know.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
What Women Want (2000)

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What Women Want (2000) -- VHS
What Women Want (2000) -- DVD
What Women Want: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc

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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan