Toni Collette vowed she would never again pork up for a film after adding a chunky 20 kilos for Muriel’s Wedding. But she found herself agreeing to add 10 kilograms for her role as a workaholic Philadelphia lawyer with two problems: an Imelda Marcos-sized shoe habit and an uncontrollable younger sister.

What actors will do for their directors and their characters! Curtis Hanson must have put forward a convincing case for her to lose that svelte figure.

As Rose, Collette buries herself in her work to avoid having a life or a boyfriend. Her sister Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz, is the complete opposite: a party girl who thinks herself so dumb that she must trade on her good looks. Maggie’s employment is as erratic as her address. She wears out her welcome sofa-surfing at Rose’s apartment when she trashes her sister’s Jimmy Choos and the next-best-thing to a relationship Rose has in her life.

Yet this is no chick flick. Hanson, director of L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile, is more interested in those tricky transformations people go through -“ regardless of their gender -“ although this is his first foray into the female world.

Actually, I found the first half plain annoying. Diaz’s Maggie is a real pain in the arse, but In Her Shoes is a beguiling film. Like a chilled vanilla martini, you are hooked and happy before you realise it. In Her Shoes is a tender and funny drama about why families are so hard to live with -“ even when you can’t live without them -“ adapted from Jennifer Weiner’s bestseller by Erin Brockovich‘s screenwriter Susannah Grant.

The film gets its act together as Maggie and Rose evolve into well-rounded human beings and this is where Hanson’s wonderful cast work their magic. Toni Collette plays the straight angry chick role with plenty of honesty and grace. Cameron Diaz shows great range and even manages some charming slapstick when working as a dog-washer. Mark Feuerstein is Simon Stein -“ a lawyer in Rose’s law firm with a soft spot for Rose -“ who pursues her with his gentle charm.

And things step up a notch when Shirley MacLaine as Ella Hirsch -“ the grandmother the sisters believed was dead -“ receives a knock on her door. Ella lives in a Florida retirement community for active seniors -“ a unique world with curious mating habits -“ and her neatly controlled world is turned upside down when Maggie arrives on her doorstep. But then Maggie’s world is also about to flip over too. Loads of fun. Take tissues.

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