I Could Never Be Your Woman is something of an oddity. It went straight to DVD, although it has top-rate talent. It stars Michelle Pfeiffer as a forty-year-old single mom who writes for a teen TV show. When Paul Rudd tries out for a guest spot (as a 29-year-old playing much younger), she’s interested but concerned about the difference in their ages.
This is so much more than a romantic comedy, though. It tackles the problems of youth obsession (as most obviously shown in its opening credits, which were very difficult to watch, given the graphic scenes of plastic surgery) and raising a girl in today’s society, among other topics. It’s complicated, without simple answers, but very funny. That’s what I expected, given that Amy Heckerling (Clueless, Fast Times at Ridgemont High) wrote and directed. (And obviously knows her stuff, given her time on the Clueless TV show.)
It’s also given additional context through its stars actually playing younger than they are. Rudd is in his 30s, playing upper 20s playing teen, while Pfeiffer is almost a decade older than her character. Stacey Dash plays the star of the teen show, and I’m astounded at how she’s still able to play that young at 40. Great skin she’s got.
Saoirse Ronan, currently getting praise for Atonement, plays the daughter, and the parent/child relationship is one of the strongest parts of the movie. It brings home how hard it is to want your daughter to have everything she wants (including dating the young boy she has a crush on) at the same time trying to raise her to be suspicious about how culture treats women and their unrealistic expectations of looks. (This is complicated by how great Pfeiffer looks, although much of that is achieved by keeping the movie VERY bright and over-saturated. At times her face glows with an unearthly light, which makes her skin look smooth and unlined.) The girl has a talent, within the film, of singing funny song parodies, including a Britney Spears attack to the tune of “Oops, I Did It Again” that ends “I dance like a whore… I’m just not that talented.”
Sarah Alexander (Coupling) is the thieving bitchy assistant, and her plotline was disappointing. It doesn’t reflect well on Pfeiffer’s character that it takes her so long to figure out that she’s being lied to, and then Alexander’s character’s comeuppance is unsatisfying. That element leads to one of those “why don’t they just talk to each other” situations that exists only to keep the leads apart for part of the film so their reunion can be more significant.
It’s a bit troubling that older women are good, girls-just-becoming-women are good, but young women are, as shown in this film, evil or stupid and two-dimensionally self-centered. Maybe that’s a necessary counterpoint to the overwhelming number of messages we receive otherwise in our society, or maybe it’s just better for the comedy that way. There’s also Tracey Ullman, playing Mother Nature as a foil for Pfeiffer to sound off to and the nagging voice of self-doubt. It’s unnecessary, although amusing to see her jogging in long robes while eating chips.
Rudd is surprisingly multi-talented, funny and completely un-self-conscious as a comedian. His solo club dance number is something to behold. Oh, and given the writer/director, the soundtrack is great, too.
Given that the film was made in 2005 and only now coming out, there are a few bits that aren’t as timely as intended, but Hollywood satire holds up well, since that superficiality never changes. So why’d it never come out in theaters? Entertainment Weekly recently published an article that blamed the indie studio behind it for mismanaging its distribution deals. (You can also see the movie trailer at their site.)
KC called this a Woody Allen film, only focusing on women, and actually funny. After watching (and enjoying) it, I’m not surprised that a movie that honestly and entertainingly portrays the concerns faced by older (or as Hollywood has it, no-longer-20-something) women fell through the cracks of the studio system. It’s not the kind of material they’re interested in, just as every time an older female audience makes something a hit, they’re surprised.
Although it has its flaws, it’s a great film with witty dialogue and skilled performances, and I encourage you to check it out.