Claudette Barius, Picturehouse
India Ennenga, Meg Ryan and Candice Bergen in the tiresome, shallow comedy-drama "The Women."
THE WOMEN — * 1/2 — Meg Ryan, Annette Bening, Candice Bergen; rated PG-13 (vulgarity, profanity, drugs, slurs)

Upon further reflection, maybe the big-screen version of "Sex and the City" wasn't so bad after all.

If "The Women" hadn't been in production for so long, and hadn't originally been scheduled to be released before that aforementioned movie, you'd swear that this tiresome, shallow comedy-drama was a poorly concealed rip-off of it.

As it is, this is a colossal waste of talent. In addition to its all-star, all-female cast, "The Women" comes from one of the creators of TV's beloved "Murphy Brown." It also purports to be based on the 1939 George Cukor comedy, as well as Clare Boothe Luce's stage play of the same name.

Meg Ryan stars as Mary Haines, a seemingly happily married fashion designer who finds out her husband of 13 years has been carrying on an affair — with a department store perfume counter "spritzer" (Eva Mendes).

While Mary tries to decide what to do about that, her best friend, magazine editor Sylvie Fowler (Annette Bening), is also torn. She's also discovered that tidbit but has been withholding that information from Mary.

Screenwriter/director Diane English pads this mess out with go-nowhere subplots about their pals — a perpetually pregnant artist (Debra Messing) and a lesbian author (Jada Pinkett Smith).

Worse, as written by English and played by this cast, the main characters come off as shrill, unlikable — and extremely materialistic — harpies.

Frankly, we're really not that interested in seeing whether the horribly selfish, self-involved Mary or her ultimately back-stabbing pal find any happiness in their lives.

(Mendes, who plays the film role Joan Crawford originated, has a very minimal presence.)

About the only thing that's watchable about this film is the more veteran members of the supporting cast. Candice Bergen, who plays Mary's mother, and Cloris Leachman (her faithful maid) both beg for more screen time. Why couldn't this film have been about their more-interesting characters instead?

"The Women" is rated PG-13 for crude sexual references and other suggestive language, occasional strong profanity, and drug content and references (marijuana and various pharmaceuticals), as well as some derogatory slurs and language. Running time: 114 minutes.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com