What Women Want
starring Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Alan Alda and Marisa Tomei
written by Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa
directed by Nancy Meyers
In interviews with movie industry reporters after the release of this film a few months ago, Mel Gibson admitted that he had no idea what women want - as if acting in a movie with such a title give him some special ability to know. I liked this film, though and watching it seems to reconfirm to me that romantic comedy is my favorite type of movie.
Gibson plays an advertising executive who is a typical male chauvinist pig. All his promotional ideas are stereotypic T&A promotions which prove less and less effective in a business and consumer world where women have more power and position.
Towards this end, to better meet the market of empowered women, Gibson is passed over for promotion in favor of a female executive (Helen Hunt) who is hired away from a rival company. Naturally he is upset about it. At their first executive meeting the new woman distributes “kits” to everyone and explains that inside are products for women the makers of which are looking for new advertising representation. It is everyone’s job to do homework and come back the next day with ideas on how to sell the goods.
In some of the vest scenes of the film, Gibson stands in front of his bathroom mirror trying out the products: pantyhose, hair removal wax, nail polish, turquoise brassiere, etc. When his 15-year-old daughter arrives home with her boyfriend and finds her father looking like a transvestite, he falls into the bath with the electric hair dryer still in his hand. The resulting electric shock transforms him and gives him the ability to hear what the women around him are thinking, as if they were actually speaking.
He soon learns to use this ability to his advantage in his advertising work, but it also introduces us to all the comedy of the movie. By adapting himself to what the women around him are thinking he comes across as a great, gentle, empathetic man who understands women. It reminds me of other great movies portraying men in women’s shoes: Tootsie (Dustin Hoffman), Some Like It Hot (Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis), Mr. Mom (Michael Keaton), Mrs. Doubtfire (Robin Williams), and Junior (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
I liked Alan Alda as the head of the firm. I have always admired his acting.
The use of electric shock to empower the man with womanly intuition seems like a cheap Hollywood tactic that has probably been used countless times in movies and television. But what are you going to do?