Directed and written by Jon Kasdan, The Land Before Time — excuse me, got my movies confused — In the Land of Women stars Adam Brody as Carter Webb, a softcore porn writer who, after an emotional break-up with his actress girlfriend Sofia (Elena Anaya), decides to move in with his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis), an aging woman who thinks she's dying.
While taking care of her, and pondering his life's work and his love for Sofia, Carter meets the neighbors living across the street, the Hardwickes. He starts walking with Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan), a mother of two who we know has breast cancer, and finally he falls for her, and she for him. But all is not well in the situation, as Carter has also befriended Sarah's daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart), and Lucy, being in a state of confusion over her interest in boys, falls for Carter, too. It's up to Carter to figure out his own feelings.
Adam Brody really seems like a likeable guy in this film. I've not seen his other work, but here, he brings a talkative, people-person quality to his character. It's not unbelieveable that two women would fall for him at once, not because of his looks but because of how In the Land… portrays Carter as the guy who has all the answers. Carter feels like a sage, someone who knows the ins and outs of relationships and has the experiences of life. While it could be probable for him to give advice on love to Lucy, it seems a bit strange that Carter could be a mentor to Sarah, who knows from experience what it's like to fall in and out of love. Consequently, Carter does more of the teaching, rather than Sarah, who one would expect to be giving advice to Carter as he reminisces on his love for Sofia.
However, Sarah's predicament holds the plot together; her problems are what keep the film moving along, because if she did not have breast cancer, we would be left with one tedious film about a boy finding love in the wrong places. It was inevitable that Carter would fall for Sarah, and Lucy would fall for Carter; if the plot only consisted of this, the audience would have tuned out well before the conclusion. But to pit the whole Hardwicke family against Sarah's breast cancer tugs at the heartstrings, leaving the audience wondering if she'll make it out okay.
The plot does seem to meander, but the conflicts between Carter v. Lucy v. Sarah add enough drama to make the film interesting. Conclusions to the film are pretty quick, and there's just enough of a lead-up to make them seem likely. For instance, a guy who has a crush on Lucy is minimally stuck in to the movie, where eventually she realizes her own love for him. It happens fast and is miniscule, but there's enough glue to make it stick.
The best part of In the Land… is Carter's grandmother, who always complains about dying. She's humorous because of her morbidity, and at the end we get a twinge of guilt at laughing at her seemingly unimportant moaning, because we find that she really did feel the end coming after all.
In the Land of Women does mostly the same things as most other romantic com-drams, and basically on par with them, too. Ironically what sticks out most are the dramatic instances that have nothing to do with romance, and the lack of a substantial conclusion at the film's finale that shows that love cannot be forced, and is easily confused. This is what Carter really came seeking when he went to his grandmother's house — he wanted to find if his confusion about love was shared, and in the end, he finds solace in the notion that everyone is lost until love is found. He answers his own questions, because he has all the answers, even if he doesn't realize it.Powered by Sidelines