What Every Man Should Know
Released back in 2000, Nancy Meyer's "What Women Want" is a great rom-com, one which thanks to its pairing of Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, as well as a clever storyline appeals to both men and women. Whilst it has to be said that it is very entertaining and at times quite clever it is also quite predictable, as in once we are introduced to the main characters and premise it's quite easy to predict where it will end up, it's a case of enjoying the journey from A to B.
Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson - Lethal Weapon 4) is a man's man who as well as having a good job in the world of advertising leads a playboy, bachelor lifestyle. But when he is beaten for a promotion by his rival Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt - Cast Away), his chauvinistic ideas fail to impress. In an attempt to embrace the new feminine regime, he accepts the challenge of coming up with an advertising campaign for various women's products including leg waxing and panty hose. To do this he decides to test the products out and accidentally electrocutes himself when he falls into a bath while using a hair dryer. When he comes round, he discovers he has the dubious gift of being able to hear what women are thinking. At first, it scares the hell out of him and he seeks advice from a shrink, but he soon comes round to the idea that he has an amazing gift.
The biggest reason why "What Women Want" works is that whilst there is the predictable romantic element to the movie the fun is in watching Mel Gibson's character Nick Marshall uses his unexpected gift. There are numerous scenes which are hilarious as Marshall taps into the thoughts of the women around him using it to his advantage as in the scene where he beds Lola played by Marisa Tomei. It's just one of a wide range of scenes which works because it is not only entertaining but because it fits the character of Nick Marshall perfectly and helps build up this character which appeals to men, the playboy with a touch of cockiness and smarm.
But whilst there is much merriment from watching Nick's exploits there is also an attempt to deliver a moral message, one of not being self centred and of understanding. Unlike many other movies it actually doesn't feel like an after thought, rather an ongoing theme within the storyline to "What Women Want". Its part of the movies appeal that Nick actually changes character through out the movie as he grows up not only in the way he treats other women but also his relationship with his daughter. It's the sort of quasi moral message you expect when it comes to your Hollywood rom-com to add meaning, but in this case it actually works because it's not just tagged on as an after thought.
As for the romantic side of the movie, well as is often the case it feels slightly underplayed. You know it is there and the bubbling relationship between Nick and Darcy is enjoyable to watch but for most of the movie it plays second fiddle to the humour only really coming to the fore towards the end of the movie. But then it's not a complaint as making the romance of the movie more visible would have changed the feel of "What Women Want" completely and probably wouldn't have been so appealing to a male audience.
It has to be said that whilst Mel Gibson would not be the first name to come to mind when casting a rom-com he is in fact perfect for the role of the womanizing Nick Marshall. There is something about Mel Gibson, the old school charm and slight cockiness which makes the womanizing antics of Marshall both believable and entertaining to watch. When Nick puts on a bit of Sinatra and semi dances around his apartment it is a scene which is not only entertaining but feels right as if Mel Gibson would actually do that himself. It's also a clever pairing putting Helen Hunt opposite him as she is equally believable as his rival Darcy Maguire. Hunt is a wonderful actress, beautiful but also brilliant at delivering likeable, realistic characters such as April Espner in "Then She Found Me". Whilst the chemistry between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt may not set the world alight, the comedy and timing is brilliant.
Although Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt are the obvious stars there are plenty of wonderful supporting performances in "What Women Want". Alan Alda is subtly funny as the boss of the advertising agency, whilst Bette Midler is hilarious as the shrink which Nick visits when he discovers his new talent. Plus there are also performances from the likes of Mark Feuerstein and Judy Greer. But the best of the supporting performances comes from Ashley Johnson who plays Nick's teenage daughter Alex. Johnson is wonderful as the resentful daughter who like Nick changes as the movie progresses.
What makes "What Women Want" all that bit more special is that director Nancy Meyers has made a rom-com which appeals to men, something which she has managed to do since with the likes of "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Holiday". Meyers has managed to create a great character when it comes to Nick Marshall one which appeals to me because of his bachelor lifestyle but also appeals to women because he is charming. It is this strong character which makes "What Women Want" stand out from the crowd and makes it feel not just like a play it by number movie despite that when you look at it deep down the romantic storyline is pretty formulaic. She also has a great ear for a soundtrack and the "What Women Want" soundtrack is littered with great tunes from classics such as "Night and Day", "Mack the Knife" and "I Won't Dance" through to more contemporary pieces such as "I See You Baby" and "Bitch".
What this all boils down to is that in one of the most crowded genres "What Women Want" feels slightly different and stands out in a crowd. With top performances from Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt as well as from the supporting cast it appeals to men as much as it does to women.