Movie #168 2020: What Women Want (2000)

Amazing! I’m so glad that Mel Gibson swooped in there and saved all these women!

In all seriousness, I’ll get to why I didn’t have too much of an issue with that after a short sidebar.

What Women Want is probably the first movie I can remember coming out that wasn’t animated. I was only eight, but I succinctly remember the corner shop having posters for it in their window, as they had just added it to their rental collection. Remember that? Renting VHS tapes? My small village where I grew up was too small for a Blockbuster, so our little local shop just rented anything out that they thought was popular enough to stock. Why did I remember this one in particular? I have no clue, to be honest. But thought I’d leave you with that little anecdote for some perspective on how long I’ve actually lived without seeing this movie yet being astutely aware of it.

To be honest, I never really knew what it was about until now. It’s an almost romantic comedy, with emphasis on the comedy. Set chiefly in an advertising agency, a new female boss (Helen Hunt) comes to the company and ruffles Gibson’s feathers. She wants more commercials to be aimed at women, and encourages the men in her team to try out some ‘female’ beauty and fashion products. Gibson’s character does this hilariously and begrudgingly (one of the best sequences in the whole movie shows us what he does with these products) but – to his eventual benefit – he electrocutes himself in the process and ends up with psychic powers meaning he can hear every thought that goes through a woman’s head.

So back to my opening statement we go. Why does it not bother me – an ardent feminist – so much that this has white male saviour written all over it? Well, the intentions of this movie were clearly from the heart, and I believe the writers really aimed to help men understand how women feel from day to day. It’s a shame that practically no straight men actually willingly watched this movie, because although it’s not entirely successful, it does make a real effort to teach a lesson about empathy for the opposite sex.

Gibson himself is actually charming in this movie, but of course this was before we knew he was a raging anti-Semitic… Aside from that, there are quite a few stars in this film that probably didn’t have all that much exposure at the time but make welcome additions to the cast list. A young Sarah Paulson and a barely adult Judy Greer fill the supporting cast roles, and a Bette Midler cameo was a particular highlight.

So what if it’s not groundbreaking? And yeah, parts of what occurs here are problematic in today’s climate surrounding gender and equality, but I had fun watching this. The plot line advances quickly, and the whole thing has that early-2000s grainy sheen to it that I can’t help but love.

This isn’t my usual type of movie, but it has that nostalgia to it that I have obviously attributed to it being the first ‘movie for grown-ups’ that came into my eight year old consciousness. Want to see what it was like for women in the year 2000? This movie can be your time capsule.

What Women Want is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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