Friday, September 12, 2008

The Women take Manhattan

As she introduced The Women last night at its New York premiere screening at the AMC Loews Theater at 19th St. & Broadway, the film's writer/director Diane English revealed that the film we were about to see had been 14 years in the making. That means that English first launched her dream project back in 1994, while in the midst of running her iconic sitcom, CBS' Murphy Brown.

The Women reunites English with Murphy star Candice Bergen -- and stars, as did the 1939 original film, a cadre of the hottest actresses of its day. Last night at the premiere -- which Frank and I attended courtesy of another hot woman with a meteoric career, comic Lisa Lampanelli -- we spotted many of the film's stars, including Meg Ryan, Eva Mendes, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Ana Gasteyer and Debi Mazar.

Later, at the after party on the rooftop of the ultra-hip Gramercy Park hotel, we overheard Mazar talking about how she had first auditioned for the film over 8 years ago. And those fun lines she spouts as gossipy Saks Fifth Avenue salon manicurist Tanya, about encountering Madonna during her past life in Queens, come, at her suggestion to English, straight from Mazar's own life.

In fact, the film is full of fun touches -- including a scene stolen by Bette Midler as an updated version of the original film's "Countess" character; a winking reference to 1930s movies; and other fun moments with so many of my favorite stars like Cloris Leachman, Carrie Fisher and Debra Messing. And this is the most I've ever enjoyed both Annette Bening and Meg Ryan post-When Harry Met Sally. In fact, in moments during The Women, I felt like I could catch a glimpse of Sally again, which works perfectly here for Ryan's character of the wronged wife Mary Haines.

At some point last night, I learned that the critics had not been kind, which might be why Diane English seemed rather low-key. (Or, it could be that she preferred to talk to the likes of the film's producer Mick Jagger over me -- and who could blame her!) Personally, I really enjoyed the film. It differs in some major ways from the original -- and it may be sacrilege for a gay man to say this, but in most cases, I found the changes modern and refreshing.

Oh, and by the way, yes, I did just name drop Mick Jagger. This was one A-List event, which should say something about the film's status. At the screening, moguls like Clive Davis and designers Valentino and Dennis Basso sat among actors like Julia Stiles and Ben Shenkman and journalists Barbara Walters and Cindy Adams. At the party, Bette Midler turned up with daughter Sophie von Haselberg, Frank and I got to hang out with hilarious Jersey girl Karen Duffy aka "Duff," and Ms. Lampanelli got some much welcomed fan worship from Ms. Stiles, and from her two new apparent best friends, Crossing Jordan's Jill Hennessy and Law & Order's S. Epatha Merkerson.

The shnorrer that I am, I wondered why there were no gift bags on the way out -- especially because apparently last night's party sponsor, the makeup brand Nars, has re-created manicurist Tanya's favorite shade, "Jungle Red" -- in conjunction with the film. Oh well -- you can't have it all. Well you can, but maybe you shouldn't want it all -- at least that's what Meg's Mary Haines says in the end.

Opens today, September 12

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