While browsing through the New Releases in the video store, don't neglect the recently released comedy, In Her Shoes. Probably there are multiple copies on the shelf, which usually means mindless fluff. But not in this case. This movie is that rare, wonderful thing: mindful fluff.
The story concerns two sisters: Maggie (Cameron Diaz), pretty and out of control; and Rose (Toni Collette), plain and in control (sort of). These differences drive the sisters apart and then, through some undistinguished plotting, bring them back together. There is no point in describing the plot or the characters any further, because they are formulaic. The charm lies in the execution: the screenplay, pacing, and acting, especially Diaz and Collette, who do a beautiful job of portraying the two sisters' complicated but powerful bond.
To judge by most Hollywood films, not to mention popular TV fare like Sex in the City and Desperate Housewives, women have no lives apart from their sex lives, and their relationships with one another are based solely on a neurotic need to process information about their sex lives. No amount of rhetorical prattle about "female empowerment" alters this dismally one-dimensional portrait. But in its light-handed way, In Her Shoes provides an alternative.
It's a comedy, of course, which means that the family conflict gets resolved at the end. This doesn't always happen in life, needless to say. But the best compliment I can give In Her Shoes is that it could have worked as a tragedy, in which the sisters never reconcile. Indeed, one reason why it succeeds as a comedy is that it allows tragic emotions to peek through the surface. In sum, fluff this good is hard to make and deserves at least as much respect as, say, mindless gloom.