Nancy Myers is known for her delightfully-light touch with romantic comedies, a talent which stands her in good stead in "What Women Want", an offbeat love story with a couple of unusual twists.
Nick Marshall (Mel Gibson) is the consummate ladies man, a silver-tongued rogue who thinks he's God's gift to women. His talent for seducing beautiful women earns him the admiration and respect of colleagues and friends at the advertising agency where he works...and where he expects to shortly be promoted to Creative Director. Imagine his shock, then, when he finds that the position has instead gone to Darcy McGuire (Helen Hunt), an executive from a rival firm who has been hired in order to help Nick's firm better target women in their advertising campaigns. Sorry, Nick's boss tell him, you're a great guy, but we need someone who knows what women think.
In the course of a somewhat convoluted training exercise (in which he dons lipstick and pantyhose for one of the movie's funniest scenes), Nick accidentally electrocutes himself. When he wakes, he realizes that he has the power to hear what women are thinking. Quickly capitalizing on his new ability, Nick proceeds to learn as much as he can about women; using his secret power, he soon wows the management with his insights, begins a torrid romance with Darcy, connects with his teenage daughter, and becomes a better lover (I believe the technical term is "sex god".) The new Nick Marshall is a kinder, gentler human being...but what happens when his powers go away?
A well-directed comedy, "What Women Want" relies largely on its unusual premise and the performances of its lead pair to carry the film. Both Gibson and Hunt are particularly good, and Gibson's charisma and timing add a wonderful punch to his comedic performance. Marisa Tomei, Alan Alda, and Lauren Holly all make cameo appearances, and Tomei in particular does a good job as the coffee-shop attendant with a crush on the sensitive Nick Marshall. At a little over two hours long, the film could do with some editing, especially in the latter half, but the extra minutes don't detract considerably from the story.
If you expect to leave "What Women Want" with a deeper understanding of the female of the species, you're going to be sorely disappointed. If, on the other hand, you go in expecting a few laughs, you'll leave more than satisfied.This article was first published on 28 May 2001.