TWO STARS - Entertaining
The wonderful experience of finding someone of “like mind” is one of the primary steps in building relationships. It is so rare when it is experienced with a person of the other gender that we tend to treasure such an experience as a sign that we are “made for each other” and have “everything in common.”
But what if a person could read your thoughts and fake the situation so that you only thought you had found a sympatico mate? What if their sincerity and mutuality was all a ploy to use your own thoughts against you or, at least, for their own gain? What would happen to the persons involved in such a sham?
Creating a surreal relationship in which Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) has an electrifying experience which results in his supernatural ability to hear the thoughts of women, “What Women Want” explores the importance not only of men understanding how women think, but also the importance of being sincere and honest if any love relationship is going to survive.
The central character is an extreme caricature of a macho male. Raised as the only son of a Las Vegas showgirl, Nick learns at an early age how to use his good looks and charm to beguile and use women. But what he doesn’t realize is that the healthy women in his life actually despise him as a player.
Though this extreme example is unfair to the majority of men who are sincere, honest and true in their relationships with their girlfriends or wives, there are those players whose relational moorings have been so damaged that they drift from relationship to relationship, shipwrecking the lives of those unfortunate enough to land in their wake. These men need to be confronted with the results of their behaviors.
This occurs in Nick’s life, when his male-dominated advertising firm is forced by the economics of consumers to hire a female director to reach the burgeoning market to women.
The capable woman hired is driven, yet misunderstood and vulnerable, Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt). As perfect a woman as Nick is imperfect as a man, the film gives Nick the ability to read her thoughts.
At first, Nicks new ability is so disconcerting as to drive him to his therapist. But when his therapist unbelievably suggests that he can “rule the world” by using this power to control women, Nick sets out on a scheme to use his new ability against his new boss, Darcy.
What is predictable about such a plot is that Nick soon comes to appreciate women so much that he becomes a “tenderized male.” But giving women back their own thoughts also reveals the romantic and unrealistic expectation of many women that their ideal man is in fact able to give them everything they want without their having to ask for it. This shallow, self-centered expectation of relationships with men is not explored within the film and leaves the film one-sided.
It is also predictable that the “new male” will lose his magical ability and yet remain “tuned in” to women. This is a message many women want to communicate today and is a message men would benefit from receiving. However, if the message remains “What Women Want” and not “What Love Gives,” the expectations will never be fulfilled in the real world beneath the big screen.