Adam Brody, in his last break from “The O.C.,” put in a fantastic performance in 2005’s best comedy, Thank You for Smoking. With In the Land of Women, Brody continues to make a name for himself as a serious actor, giving a nuanced, often touching performance in a flawed but ultimately worthy film.
Brody plays Carter Webb, a soft-core porn writer who goes to Michigan to take care of his grandmother after his girlfriend breaks up with him. Carter’s goal is to get away from his life, get some perspective, and write something serious. In Michigan, he encounters the women who live across the street from his grandmother – the mother, Sarah (Meg Ryan), a housewife who feels as if life hasn’t quite ended up the way she wanted it, and her daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), a lonely teenage girl trying to navigate her way through her troubles with her family.
Brody is a talented actor, already known to many for his TV work (“The OC,” “Gilmore Girls,” among some others), and his performance in In the Land of Women could prove to be a breakout – if anyone sees the movie, which, as has been pointed out in several other reviews that I’ve read, doesn’t fit into any established genre and won’t have a target crowd to draw on. Which is a shame, because Brody delivers a fine performance, not too big or spastic (compare this to his role in Thank You for Smoking), but subtle, touching, and real. His Carter is multidimensional and genuine, a man in search of something that he can’t find because he doesn’t know what it is.
And, furthermore, Brody has strong chemistry with all three of his female co-stars, with each of whom he has a very different relationship: Sarah, Lucy, and his grandmother Phyllis (Olympia Dukakis). All three actresses give strong performances (Stewart perhaps a little less so), with Dukakis the real standout: though she doesn’t have the screentime of the other two, her Phyllis is thoroughly convincing, line by crotchety line, and provides a different perspective in a film overwhelmed with people wondering how their lives have gone so wrong: “I’m going to be dead soon, and you’ll still be alive. So quit complaining.”
I don?t know that In the Land of Women is completely successful at giving answers, but it’s a film that asks the right questions: it’s honest and sincere and it takes itself seriously. And so, if it stumbles occasionally, we must forgive it: it remains a film well worth seeing.
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