What Women Want (2000) / Comedy-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Running Time: 127 min.
Cast: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Alan Alda, Ashley Johnson
Director: Nancy Meyers
Screenplay: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
Review published June 14, 2001
Nick Marshall (Gibson, The Patriot) is an ad exec with aspirations of heading the company division. He is also a misogynist womanizer with not a shred of respect for the opposite gender. When the company realizes that women are becoming one of the leading consumers in the country, they decide to hire a woman to head their team due to poor showing among the female demographic. Darcy (Hunt, Cast Away) is the woman hired, with a great track record in this area. Things take a strange turn when Nick takes a jolt of electricity after falling in the tub, and is astonished to discover that he can now hear the thoughts of the women around him. Seeing this as an opportunity to gain secret knowledge to how women tick, he begins to pick the brains of various women in order to help him look like a hotshot in the eyes of Darcy by stealing her ideas before she can say them.
What Women Want is like a runner in a marathon, starting off brisk in the beginning and slowly tiring as it progresses, sputtering for breath as it finally crosses the finish line. While Mel is a heartless bastard, the film gets it's laughs, but as he gets softer for women, the movie gets weaker. While it is entertaining as a whole, there does seem to be a good deal of patronizing toward women, with writing that speaks more like a Hallmark card of condolence than a legitimate appeal for understanding to women's issues. Mel Gibson is terrific regardless of how mean or nice he is, and Helen Hunt lends her usual charm in a supporting role with ease.
However, for all its good intentions, the film is contrived and shallow, with stereotypical ideas of what women might really want and how men really think. It's other big flaw is the derivations to its genre, with old-time Frank Sinatra jazz permeating the soundtrack as it seems he does for most romantic comedies in the last decade. Moreover, while Mel is clearly too much of an A-hole for most women to tolerate before the transformation, I have to think he becomes a little too soft for most women to take as well. Being kind, considerate and understanding are admirable traits for a man I will take as gospel, but do women really want a puppy dog following them around catering to their every thought and desire before they even can think it, 24/7?
While I would categorize What Women Want as a bit disappointing due to it's stars and ideas, it still manages enough humor and insight to eke out a mild recommendation from me for those looking for something light and romantic.
©2001 Vince Leo