Mel Gibson
Helen Hunt
Marisa Tomei
Bette Midler
Lauren Holly
Ashley Johnson
Mark Feuerstein
Alan Alda

Nancy Meyers

"What's the difference between a wife and a job? After 10 years a job still sucks."
Time: 142 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Official Website
Genre: Romantic Comedy
I went to see this movie because the concept was interesting and the trailer has some funny moments. I generally also usually enjoy the work of the film's leads, Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, so I figured at the very least it would be a nice way to pass a Sunday afternoon. WHAT WOMEN WANT is certainly enjoyable enough, but it didn't give me the warm and happy feeling I anticipated when I left the theater. Gibson and Hunt have pretty good chemistry and do a good job with these characters, but their performance are nothing you haven't seen them do before. Gibson may not have ever played someone this smarmy, but he's just oozing with his trademark charm. I still think he's one of the best looking guys of the Hollywood bunch, however, his welcome is wearing a bit thin for me right now. Nobody does intelligent and vulnerable like Helen Hunt and it's a shame she isn't called on to do more than that here.

The first easily corrected problem I had with this movie is the length. No romantic comedy should be over 2 hours. There's only so much will they, won't they that I can take. Plus, the action should be centered on the main characters and their love story. This film had way to many unnecessary sub-plots involving Gibson and the various women in his life. These relationships are supposed to help him become a better person, but all they really do is dilute the main love story. And...since he never really does learn anything they are an even bigger waste of time. The filmmaker's try to convince you that "Nick" has become a better person by the end of the film, someone who's learned his lesson about the way to treat a lady, but I beg to differ. He's a master manipulator that only tries to make things better because he feels guilty, not because he wants to do the right thing.

The movie opens with Nick's ex-wife Gigi (Holly) telling the story of how Nick became the man he is today as she gets ready for her second wedding. We're supposed to feel sorry for him, a boy who grew up in Las Vegas with an irresponsible showgirl for a mother and a revolving door of male role models in the place of a father. Frankly, I was more than a little disgusted that they try to excuse his upcoming behavior like this. I guess Mel didn't want to be unlovable. This way he can be extremely deplorable without having the audience hate him. It's not his fault he turned out this way. Give me a break. I know this is a comedy and it made for a colorful opening sequence, but I think they could've come up with something better than this. I'm tired of people blaming there horrible personalities on their parents. At some point one has to take responsibility for their behavior. Nick is too old and smart to play this card.

That same day, Nick awakens all excited because he believes he's going to get a promotion to creative director at the ad agency he works for. Needless to say, he gets a rude awakening when his boss hires Darcy Maguire (Hunt) for the job. The agency needs someone who can capture the women's market and Nick isn't exactly known for his feminine touch. He has no problems getting them into bed, but actually understanding why they do the things they do is not his strong suit. Nick has no choice but to grin and bear it, but he isn't counting himself out of the running. In fact, his first impression of Darcy is a very positive one, sexually speaking, until she gives them an assignment to come up with campaigns for various female products. Disgusted by the fact that he now has to sell to women, Nick gets drunk and takes the exploration into this new realm a little too far. He tries on all of the products given to him from the nail polish to the panty hose trying to get into the heads of women, to figure out "what women want." What he ends up doing, beside looking ridiculous, is electrocuting himself in the bathtub.

When he wakes up the next morning, he discovers he can actually hear what women are thinking...and in his case it isn't as pleasant as he imagined. To get a handle on his new problem, he goes to see his old shrink. She doesn't believe him at first, but after she's convinced of his ability, she tries to get his to see that this "gift" might not be such a bad thing. In fact, by using it properly, he could be king of the world. Of course, Nick does what most men would do, uses his gift to his advantage. He doesn't really care to understand the women in his life, he just continues to manipulate them to do what he wants, only now he has the inside track. Everyone is amazed by the turnaround in his characters, especially Darcy, who begins falling in love with him. Who wouldn't? He always knows the right thing to say. There are several moments in the film when he takes the high road that are supposed to show the audience that he's becoming a better person, but I just didn't buy it.

The only honest relationship he has in the film is with his daughter Alex (Johnson) who isn't fooled by his reformation. Why should she bend over backwards for a father who barely noticed her for fifteen years. Nick's relationship with Lola (Tomei), a ditzy actress working at the local coffee shop is just another example of his lack of growth. He pursued her for months and finally got a date by reading her thoughts and telling her what she wanted to hear. After a night of amazing sex, he doesn't call her, even though he knows it will drive her nuts. When she confronts him, instead of being a man and telling her the truth, which if he was actually learning he would do, he takes the easy way out by lying to her. It's a funny scene, but it made Nick even more unlikable to me.

The main thread of the film has to do with Nick falling in love with Darcy, a smart, honest, outspoken woman. Because she's not a bimbo and is actually successful, we're supposed to infer that he's becoming a new man since she's the one he wants to spend his life with. Most women wouldn't be able to resist Mel's baby blues, so it's no big stretch to see why Darcy falls for Nick. Their scenes together are funny and poignant and work pretty well. When Nick loses his gift – in a completely ludicrous way that doesn't make much sense except that I guess he needed to be electrocuted again – he finds he actually has to search his own heart and mind to come up with the answers that will sway Darcy's heart. His final speech where he explains everything to her and begs her to love him is so sweet and heartbreaking you almost forget what a prick he's ultimately been to her. Her response is dead-on. She refuses to pat him on the back for learning to be a decent human being. In the end, love prevails, but the minutes of silence, where he believes he lost everything, seem like punishment enough. Almost.

WHAT WOMEN WANT really doesn't tell you anything new about women or their desires, but it thinks that it does. This story is told from the man's point of view and it shows. The lesson he's supposed to learn is that women have goals and dreams outside of men, which is somewhat offensive to me as a woman. I think, by now, that that notion would be fairly obvious. The fact that this film was directed by a woman gives me pause. How she could think that this is saying anything new or illuminating about male/female relations is beyond me. I know it's a romantic comedy, but so was AS GOOD AS IT GETS and that film still managed to be witty, insightful and touching. Mel is charming, sexy and cute, but that's just not enough anymore. Maybe it's a good thing he shaved his hair off. Now he'll have to use more than his looks to be successful onscreen. This is isn't a bad movie I just hoped for something a little different and remotely clever. What you get is an average romantic comedy that pushes all the right buttons, except the one that touches your heart.