It’s easy to lament that there aren’t many writers of Clare Booth Luce’s caliber hacking it out nowadays; it’s also misguided to condemn the updating of a literary classic when we’ve seen Jane Austen wittily transplanted to a Beverly Hills high school or Jim Thompson re-staged in a French-African colony. With sufficient inventiveness and insight, these works can play in any era.
But I’m not seeing much of either in this just-released trailer for Diane English’s modernized rendition of The Women. The biggest obstacle facing English’s film is George Cukor’s beloved 1939 take on the material, which was smartened up by the great Anita Loos and Jane Murfin and indelibly performed by Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Joan Fontaine, Phyllis Povah and Mary Boland. While I like the casting of Annette Bening and Meg Ryan, how in the hell does Eva Mendes end up in the shopgirl/mistress role originated (on-screen, at least) by Crawford? Even if English had brilliantly reimagined Luce’s text, she’d still be working out of a hole.
Not to worry: the only thing English has “brilliantly” done here is tap into the lucrative Sex & the City vibe. At best, The Women 2008 will be a tolerable companion piece to Michael Patrick King’s film; at worst, it’ll play like a community theater production of Steel Magnolias.
The Women will go battle with Righteous Kill and Burn After Reading on September 12th, and probably make a killing.