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In the Land of Women

Matters of the Heart, Unevenly Expressed

Jon Kasdan, son of The Big Chillís Lawrence, makes a competent directorial debut with In the Land of Women, though his script wallows too often in trite, greeting-card sentiment. Despite that significant handicap, he commands strong performances from his stars. Meg Ryan and "The OCís" Adam Brody succeed in breathing life into material that is, at times, transparently thin, though Ryanís stiff countenance is a trifle unsettling.

Brody stars as Carter Webb, a lovelorn writer from L.A. -- in movies, there is no other kind -- who moves to suburban Michigan to live with his eccentric grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) after a painful breakup. Before long, he is embroiled in the tumultuous lives of his neighbors: Sarah (Ryan), a breast cancer victim with a cheating husband, and Lucy (Kristin Stewart, of Zathura), her rebellious, mildly estranged daughter. Despite her problems, Sarah is full of sage advice, and Carter is only too happy to listen, when heís not lost in self-absorbed musing. Lucy, meanwhile, has boy issues, which Carter, ever the sensitive soul, helps solve with a kiss.

Although Kasdanís script features some clever wordplay and sharp one-liners -- Dukakis, feisty as ever, is the greatest beneficiary Ė In the Land of Women represents an uneven beginning for the novice director. He resists the temptation to lead Carter into an easy romance with Sarah or Lucy, an admirable decision given that one is far too young, the other far too old and married to boot.

But Carterís journey of self-discovery, aided by his semi-platonic friendships, seems contrived, a familiar device in a saccharine plot that grows more pedestrian by the minute. Kasdanís debut shows promise, but he has a way to go before finding a voice uniquely his own.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars