A strong cast struggles valiantly to rise above Lifetime material in "In the Land of Women," an appealingly scruffy if overly programmatic drama. Writer-director Jonathan Kasdan's tale about a young man emerging from his relational cocoon rests squarely on the shoulders of its trio of talented lead actors, whose names should draw a limited audience to the Warner Independent Pictures feature.
Played by "The OC's" Adam Brody in his patented so-dorky-he's-cool fashion, 26-year-old aspiring writer Carter Webb has just been dumped by his supermodel g.f. Sophia (Elena Anaya). Leaving L.A., Carter moves in with his half-deranged grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) in suburban Michigan, where he becomes entangled with beautiful housewife Sarah Hardwicke (Meg Ryan, radiating her trademark charm in a much lower key) and her adolescent daughter Lucy (Kristen Stewart). Pic doesn't provide a clear sense of where it's headed early on, which is why the eventual developments can't help but feel derivative. Dialogue alternates between insightful and twee, yet Kasdan elicits strong performance all around.
Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Paul Cameron; editor, Carol Littleton; production designer, Sandy Cochrane; art director, Margot Ready; costume designer, Trish Keating; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS/SDDS), David Husby; supervising sound editor, Joel Shryack; assistant director, Paul K. Barry; casting, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Wendy Weidman. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 20, 2006. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 97 MIN.