From my review of "The Women," starring Meg Ryan, Annette Bening and the traditional all-female cast, in The American Conservative:
Isn't it irritating when a know-it-all movie critic trashes a new release just because it's not as good as its classic source (whether that be an older film, book, play, TV show, or theme park ride)? That's a tiresome routine because it's mathematically certain that most new movies will be comparatively worse than the material upon which they are based. The average new movie is, inevitably, average in quality, while the famous old works that Hollywood spends tens of millions adapting into new flicks were almost all above average.
On the other hand, the differences between the source and the new release offer useful clues to the filmmakers' point of view, and can illustrate cultural change.
Therefore, my rule as a reviewer is to watch the new film first to see what my unbiased reaction is, then read the book or watch the old DVD.
The new version of "The Women" illustrates the value of this approach. It had been a couple of decades since I'd seen George Cukor's 1939 version of the satirical play by Clare Booth Luce (the future grande dame of the American Right) about Park Avenue ladies who lunch. So, I found the new film -- a chick flick buddy comedy about Mary (Meg Ryan) and Sylvia (Annette Bening), the squabbling best friends forever who eventually team up again to win Mary's husband back from the scheming perfume counter vixen Crystal (Eva Mendes) -- to be quite likable. ...
But then I watched the original from Hollywood's annus mirabilis of 1939, and it makes the 2008 effort seems like The Importance of Being Earnest as rewritten to serve as a very special episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. ...
The remake was intentionally declawed by its writer-director Diane English, creator of Candace Bergen's Murphy Brown television show, out of feminist loyalty to the team. English complained, "… the movie had very old-fashioned ideas that were in great need of updating … The original play and film were written as a poison pen letter to shallow society women who would stab each other in the back over a man … I had to figure out a way to shift the focus. I wanted to celebrate women …"
Self-esteem boosting female empowerment plot developments ahoy! (Aren't there any bitchy gay men left in Hollywood who could have done for the remake what Cukor did in 1939?)