A remake of a '30s classic sinks its claws into women's worst instincts.
"There's a name for you ladies, but it isn't used in high society, outside of a kennel," spits Joan Crawford as the home-wrecking shopgirl in 1939's The Women, about a backbiting Manhattan social circle. This month the all-female melodrama gets a 21st-century overhaul, with Eva Mendes stepping into Crawford's heels and Meg Ryan taking Norma Shearer's role as the betrayed wife. (Annette Bening, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Bette Midler also star.) But is The Women all that ripe for a reboot? The idle dames of the original depended on men for their status and bank balances; they passed the time and purged their resentments through a regimen of nasty gossip and peppery put-downs. Aren't we light-years beyond our '30s forebears?
Sure, except…well, where to begin? Take Lori Gottlieb's manifesto, "Marry Him!"—first published in the Atlantic, now slated to become a book and film—which accuses any single, 30-plus woman who's not fretting about marriage of being either a liar or delusional. Or consider that the catty hearsay of The Women is now an all-media industry unto itself, while the anonymity of the Internet aids and abets the feral mudslinging on gossip and parenting sites. Or think of the heroines of Sex and the City: The Movie, who obsess over men and shoes and make the occasional slur upon a best pal's belly flab or unsightly bikini line. Or recall how Hillary Clinton's campaign brought out the Mean Girl lurking inside so many women. Amid this chorus of clucking and sniping and toxic status anxiety and unmitigated bitchiness (sorry, Ms. Crawford, wherever you are), a time capsule piece like The Women starts looking like timeless cultural satire. If the remake has even the smallest fraction of the original's malicious zing, it will have captured the zeitgeist, 70 years late and still on time.