'Land': Uncharted Territory

Friday, April 20, 2007

"In the Land of Women" feels like an eccentric but compelling memoir -- which, in a way, it is.

Written and directed by first-timer Jon Kasdan -- son of filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan -- it's a quasi-autobiographical drama about the unusual relationship that grows between a mopey young man and two women, a mother and daughter, who have emotional issues of their own.

Recovering from a breakup in hometown Los Angeles, Carter (Adam Brody of "The O.C.") volunteers to take care of his slightly deranged, hypochondriac grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) in suburban Detroit.

It isn't long before he befriends 40-something Sarah (Meg Ryan), a bored mom and frustrated wife who lives across the road. Their friendship becomes a sort of spiritual glue for both. She's sick, and her husband is sleeping around. But as Carter becomes increasingly involved -- platonically again -- with Sarah's teenage daughter, Lucy (Kristen Stewart), life becomes complicated.

What matters here aren't the narrative events, so much as the movie's emotional textures. "Women" explores the wide, uncharted zone between friendship and romance. The movie also refuses to descend into the cute smarminess of a mutual recovery drama, thanks to originally conceived characters. We're always wondering -- and wonderfully surprised -- by their choices. As Carter, Brody is particularly appealing. It's a nice start out of the career gate for Kasdan, who has claimed his father's 1991 "Grand Canyon" as a direct influence.

-- Desson Thomson

In the Land of Women PG-13, 98 minutes Contains sexual situations, fisticuffs and profanity. Area theaters.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company