© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

since making his debut in the bathtub of his the
Three Dog Night song "
Joy to the World" (You
know, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog ..."), had
decided to join his dad and brother Jake (
) in the director's chair with IN THE
. While the movie does have
some charm, it is also clearly a first feature.

Whether or not the story is autobiographical or
not, it does have the feeling of being not fully
formed, like the first draft of a novel.
opens with writer Carter
Webb (Adam Brody) being dumped  publicly by
his actress-model girlfriend (Elena Anaya) in a
coffee shop in L.A. To make ends meet, Carter
writes the scripts for soft-core porn films but
really aspires to write a novel about his high
school experiences.

When he arrives home, his mom (JoBeth
Williams in a cameo) informs him that his
grandmother in Michigan called and that she
claims to be dying. Acting on impulse, Carter
decides to flee L.A. and his problems and head
to the Midwest to care for Phyllis (Olympia
Dukakis), a woman he doesn't know very well.
Settling into her home, he eventually meets
members of the family who live across the
street. The matriarch is Sarah Hardwicke (Meg
Ryan in her first major screen role in several
years), who is unhappily married and raising two
daughters, teenager Lucy (Kristen Stewart) and
the precocious Paige (Makenzie Vega). She and
Carter strike up an unlikely acquaintance and
the pair frequently go on walks together during
which they discuss life and other things, like her
husband's infidelities and the fact that she has
been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Sarah encourages Lucy to become friendly with
Carter and reluctantly she does. He becomes
something of a mentor to her, accompanying her
to a party and offering romantic advice. The pair
do draw closer, which upsets Sarah. There are
some predictable elements in the third act and
one is supposed to leave the theater feeling
that each character has grown in some way.

The script is problematic. Much of it feels
half-formed; there are some potentially
interesting ideas but they are not really
developed well. The audience is supposed to
take certain things on face value -- and there
are many missed opportunities, particularly in
the third act. (I won't give away plot points, but
there was certainly a place for JoBeth Williams'
character to reappear -- even if only in a phone

Brody does a decent job anchoring the movie.
There may be traces of his television persona (it
may be a while before he escapes that
character). In a couple of highly emotional
scenes, though, I felt the actor struggling.
Stewart, whom viewers may recall as Jodie
Foster's daughter in
developed into a fine performer. She captures
the varying moods of a teenager with issues
about her mother and perhaps a more
experienced writer-director might have plumbed
those even deeper. Dukakis is in the film mostly
for comic relief and she is tart in her scenes.
Vega is stuck with playing a cliche, however, the
overly smart younger kid. It's not the actress'
fault, she does what she can with the material.
Clark Gregg appears briefly as the Hardwicke
patriarch and Dustin Milligan nicely portrays a
teen with a crush on Stewart's character.

As for Meg Ryan -- well, I've never really been a
fan, especially in her dramatic roles. I have to
say, though, that I found her work here to be
pretty good. (The less said about her alleged
cosmetic enhancements, the better though.)

IN THE LAND OF WOMEN is a flawed piece, but
young Mr. Kasdan shows promise (particularly in
his handling of the actors).

Rating:                   C
MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for sexual
                            content, thematic
                            elements and
Running time:      98 mins.
L to R: Adam Brody
as Carter Webb and
Meg Ryan as Sarah
Hardwicke in

directed by
Jonathan Kasdan

Photo by
Lorey Sebastian
(Courtesy Warner
Bros. Pictures)

© 2007 Warner Bros.
Entertainment, Inc. All
Rights Reserved.