Women Want (2000)
Romantic comedy starring
Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. A womanising, chauvinistic advertising
executive wakes up after an accident to find he has the ability
to hear women's thoughts.
Stars: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Alan Alda, Lauren
Holly, and Bette Midler (cameo)
Director: Nancy Meyers
Jack Garner, Democrat and Chronicle
humor has long sparked even the most serious Mel Gibson movie roles. In What Women
Want, Mel finally cuts loose and launches another option for his maturing years
as a movie star.
Gibson's self-effacing charm and enthusiastic comic style are more than enough
to invigorate Nancy Meyers' clever comedy about the battle of the sexes.
big influence seems to be Cary Grant, though Gibson is also a fan of the baser
forms of pratfall comedy. (After all, he recently produced a Three Stooges biopic.)
What Women Want, Gibson is Nick Marshall, a successful Chicago advertising executive,
a guy's guy and ladies' man whose testosterone practically leaks out his ears.
two events soon turn his man's world topsy-turvy.
his boss (Alan Alda) passes over him to hire a hot-shot named Darcy (Helen Hunt)
for a corner-office management job. The boss wants this highly regarded veteran
to get the agency more in tune with the lucrative female marketplace.
a freak bathtub electrocution leaves Nick with a bizarre ability: He can hear
is initially aghast -- the cacophony of women's thoughts drive him nuts, and he's
also distraut to hear what many of his co-workers really think of him.
then his shrink (an uncredited Bette Midler) helps him see the benefits of his
new ability. Soon, he's using it to seduce a waitress who's long had his eye (Marisa
Tomei), to understand his nearly estranged 15-year-old daughter (Ashley Johnson)
and, most notably, to get in tune with his agency's new thrust toward the women's
that last task, he literally picks the brain of Darcy, the new boss. Unaware of
what he's doing -- or how -- she begins to see him as a smart, simpatico co-worker.
But the complications occur when they become attracted to each other.
Women Want offers the flavor (if not all the polish) of a 1940s screwball romance.
Meyers is revisiting this turf, having directed the Steve Martin remake of Father
of the Bride, and creates a fertile comic showcase for the eager Gibson.
narrative isn't always smooth. A few bits seem obvious, the resolution isn't as
strong as filmgoers might want, and at 126 minutes, the film is 10 to 15 minutes
the central chemistry between Gibson and Hunt is appealing, and Gibson is genuinely
the holiday search for a comedic date movie, this film could be justwhat, uh,
women want. And a lot of men, too.
Ringel Gillespie, Cox News Service
Nancy Meyers clearly believes she knows what women want. Mel Gibson being romantic.
Mel Gibson being a rascal. Mel Gibson being funny. Mel Gibson being sensitive.
Mel Gibson with his shirt off.
you get the idea. In her uneven but effective crowd-pleaser, “What Women Want,”
she gives us Mel, Mel and more Mel. Oh, and Helen Hunt. Gibson plays Nick Marshall,
a pleased-with-himself playboy who calls his housekeeper “babe” and his receptionist
“honey.” Nick is in line for a big promotion at his ad agency. But at the last
minute, the job goes to new hire Darcy Maguire (Hunt). His boss (Alan Alda) explains
that the agency needs to capitalize on an increasingly female-driven market. He
likes Nick, but, as he says, “You can get into their [women’s] pants better than
anyone I know, but getting into their psyche is something else.”
Nick has a freak accident that almost fries him. Instead, he wakes up intact and
imbued with the ability to read women’s minds. At first, he’s unnerved, but a
visit to shrink Bette Midler helps him see things in a new light. She says, “If
you know what women want, you can rule.” Or at least get that job he wanted. He
uses his gift to subtly undermine Darcy. But the more he learns about women, the
more he learns how to be a man. That is, how to be human.
herself has said that her film is rooted in the old Rock Hudson/Doris Day romantic
comedies. But in a welcome nod to now, Nick initially lust safter Darcy’s office,
not her body. The bod he goes for belongs to the vulnerable Marisa Tomei. whose
thoughts set him on the road to being a good guy (and a better lover).
Women Want” goes awry in much the same way Meyers’ 1987 hit, “Baby Boom” did.
It begins with a smart, snappily amusing premise, sustains it for much of the
movie, then lapses into a gooey, smiley-face third act. Meyers just can’t leave
well enough alone. Nick saves lives, careers, even his daughter’s prom night.
And hearing Gibson say “My hero” to Hunt really isn’t what most women want. Worse,
it suggests a kind of badge-wearing pseudo-feminism.
said, “What Women Want” still qualifies as breezy, lightweight entertainment.
Gibson, who hasn’t done comedy in a while, is at his most adorable, whether he’s
trying to get in touch with his feminine side by waxing his legs or tossing off
a spot-on Sean Connery imitation. As for Hunt, it’s nice to see her looking glamorous
for a change. She’s best at the beginning when she plays Darcy as a smiling barracuda
who swiftly redecorates the conference room into a let’s-share communal space.
And while its reassuring and refreshing to see a powerful woman who’s still open
to romance, the more involved she becomes with Gibson, the less involved we are
you’re in the mood for some well-done fluff — with some deft performances and
bright dialogue — you could do a lot worse. Granted, it’s a one-joke movie, but
on the whole, the joke’s pretty darn good.
A broad comedy about a man's man who evolves
into a woman's man, "What Women Want" boasts an irresistible central
conceit that more often than not is used for oafishly boisterous gags and squirm-inducing
"sensitive man" wish fulfillment. With a manic Mel Gibson, only now
starring in his first romantic comedy, playing an incorrigible seducer who temporarily
becomes endowed with the ability to hear women's uncensored thoughts, Nancy Meyers'
second directorial outing has sheer energy and audience allure to burn, even if
numerous speed bumps cause many of the comic possibilities to go tumbling overboard.
Well-upholstered Paramount release is a near-perfect example of a film with heavy
appeal to women that men will be willing to go along to as well, a formula that
spells heavy B.O. with the mainstream public everywhere.
in serious macho roles with the occasional soft streak (as in his most recent
action epic, "The Patriot"), Gibson begins clearing a promising path
for himself here as an unapologetic womanizer who's never willing to take no for
an answer. Playing a man who's cocky, irrepressible, wild, crazy and always hot
to trot, Gibson throws himself into even the most preposterous situations with
such relish and abandon that the viewer, like most of the women, has little choice
but to succumb to him, despite the prankish nature of what he's required to play.
As Robert De Niro has shown over the past couple of years, there's a huge upside
to developing one's comic potential, and there's no question that Gibson (whose
company, after all, produced the recent Three Stooges telepic) could go far in
this direction as he graduates from straight leading man status.
introduced as the son of a Vegas showgirl who has always enjoyed the fawning attention
of beautiful women, Nick Marshall (Gibson) is now a hotshot Chicago ad exec with
an ex-wife (Lauren Holly) who's marrying again and a 15-year-old daughter, Alex
(Ashley Johnson), whose top priority is losing her virginity. Fully expecting
a promotion at work, Nick is taken aback when his boss (Alan Alda) informs him
that, to help the firm target the all-important young female demographic, he's
instead hired the estimable Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt) to put their shop back
Asked by Darcy to come up with suggestions for a new, femme-slanted
campaign, Nick gets drunk in his penthouse apartment, dances around and immerses
himself in what it's like to be a woman by waxing his legs, polishing his nails
and trying on pantyhose and a Wonder Bra -- only to be caught in flagrante, so
to speak, by an aghast Alex and her b.f. Sequence is shameless, to be sure, but
sets off gales of laughter due to the way it plays off of Gibson's ultra-macho
image -- and simply because the star is so game.
Episode concludes in
the "Twilight Zone"-ish bathroom accident that sets up the big gimmick
in Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa's script: To his initial dismay but eventual
delight, Nick finds, "I hear what women think." The dismay, as it turns
out, is pretty superficial, taking the form of Nick's learning that there are
actually some women out there who think he's a jerk. The delight, of course, is
much more profound, as a shrink (Bette Midler in an uncredited cameo) for some
reason has to explain to him, "If you know what women want, you can rule."
Before long, Nick is putting his advantage to good use at the office,
throwing Darcy off-guard by telling her exactly what she's thinking before she
has a chance to say it, and by almost literally picking her brain for creative
ideas that make him look like a genius. By this method, he figures, he'll make
sure that she's out on the street within a month.
Nick's new-found insight
and intuition have innumerable other benefits. He's finally able to break down
the resistance of vibrant coffee-shop girl Lola (Marisa Tomei) and entice her
into a sexual tryst that goes way beyond what she could have imagined, while he
also becomes attentive to the plight of office wallflower Erin (Judy Greer), whose
depressive, suicidal tendencies would have gone unnoticed without Nick's clairvoyance.
And then there's one of the film's funniest gags, in which Nick waits to discern
the inner thoughts of his two zaftig assistants (Delta Burke and Valerie Perrine).
Alex, forced to stay at Nick's bachelor pad while Mom is away honeymooning,
is initially freaked out by her dad's new and uncomfortable interest in her personal
life, although she doesn't object when he offers to take her shopping for a prom
dress. Nick's makeover into the model sensitive male is also duly noted by Darcy,
who, after all, is one of those high-powered single professional women who knows
how lonely it is at the top and needs someone to keep her warm in her lavish new
At work, Nick triumphs over Darcy, but what an electric jolt
giveth, an electric jolt taketh away, and when Nick loses his powers, the film
doesn't know what to do other than to come in for a very soft landing and putter
to an indifferent stop.
Meyers underlines, boldfaces and italicizes
every scene, then applies a high-gloss finish so that no one in the audience could
possibly miss a single line, effect or intention. In storytelling terms, pic gets
off to a bumpy start, clicks pretty nicely when Nick and Darcy begin to click
in the middle stretch, then falls off again. But Gibson seems all but inflated
with helium throughout, which contagiously lifts everyone else around him, and
Hunt's more earthbound pragmatism plays well off of her co-star's buoyancy. Tomei
shoots off some amusingly unpredictable sparks as a woman who finds Nick uniquely
Production designer Jon Hutman lavishes the settings with well-moneyed
details that are appreciatively caught by Dean Cundey's silky lensing. Attractive
Chicago locations are used to fine effect.